April 23, 2013 11:10 am

SABMiller in reshuffle after head’s health blow

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Graham Mackay, Chief Executive, SABMiller plc. PICN

SABMiller has shuffled its top posts after Graham Mackay, who built the brewer into the world’s second largest by sales, was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

As a result, Alan Clark, who previously headed the brewer’s European operations before becoming chief operating officer, takes up the post of chief executive immediately. Mr Clark had been due to succeed Mr Mackay in July.

Mr Mackay had been due to move to the chairman’s role at that point. The proposed move had been controversial, as it goes against recommendations from the UK Corporate Governance Code.

His position will be kept “under review pending the outcome of his treatment”, SABMiller said. Meanwhile, John Manser, deputy chairman, becomes acting chairman.

Speaking on behalf of the board, Mr Manser said: “Our thoughts and prayers are obviously with Graham and his family at this difficult time . . . He has made an immense contribution to making SABMiller what it is today, but the transition from Graham to Alan in accordance with our succession plans is already in its final stages.”

The brewer has been one of the FTSE 100’s stars, growing from a modest brewer with South African roots – founded in 1895 with share capital of £350,000 and debentures of £300,000 – into a multinational that now garners the biggest slice of profits from Latin America.

Acquisitions under the South African-born Mr Mackay were bold – and the company received its fair share of criticism for overpaying for assets, not least Foster’s, its smaller Australian peer. But the purchases went on to prove their worth.

Together with Malcolm Wyman, who stood down as chief financial officer two years ago, Mr Mackay shifted the company’s primary listing to London in 1999, raising £300m on the international capital markets.

The same year it took controlling interests in Pilsner Urquell and Radegast in the Czech Republic, kick-starting a global buying spree that saw it acquire Miller in the US and Bavaria in Latin America among other acquisitions and strategic alliances.

The acquisitions – as well as the group’s CR Snow joint venture, which is China’s biggest brewer – are testament to Mr Mackay’s thesis that beer is a local business, with local brands dominating.

Today SABMiller has a market capitalisation of £54bn and about 80 per cent of sales come from emerging markets.

Mr Mackay, who underwent surgery on Monday, told employees: “I am inexpressibly proud of this company, what it has achieved and the shape it is in. I certainly do not expect there to be any impact from this development on its operations or strategic direction, which will continue to run as normal.

“The transition of management responsibilities to Alan Clark is already well advanced. The group is in excellent hands, and Alan will now simply pick up the remaining executive responsibilities a little sooner than expected.”

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