Matthews founded his business 60 years ago when he bought 20 turkey eggs and a second hand oil-fuelled incubator for the princely sum of £2.50.
Working as an insurance salesman to pay the bills, his first brood totalled 12 turkeys, which he raised in his back garden. Forward wind to 2010 and the Norfolk-based business has an annual turnover of £335 million and employs 2,500 people.
Control of Bernard Matthews Group will be passed to the executive board although Matthews will continue to have say as chairman of the company’s new advisory board. It will meet four times a year to ensure the family’s interests are being served.
Noel Bartram, chief executive of the group, said: “Bernard Matthews has been an iconic businessman in the county for over 50 years and to continue to be actively involved in the business at 80 is a testament to his character and approach to life.
“From simple beginnings, with an investment of just £2.50, Mr Matthews has been responsible for taking the business from a few turkey eggs and a paraffin heater to a successful and thriving national brand.
“He is the man who effectively put turkey on the plates of everyday working families and in so doing he not only became one of the largest employers in rural East Anglia but has also supported the local farming community through the purchase of hundreds of tonnes of wheat to feed the turkeys.”
Former Anglia Television and Greene King chairman David McCall will replace Matthews as chairman. He has been a non-executive director of the business for just under 15 years.
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