SABMiller Plc (SAB) said Alan Clark will succeed Graham Mackay as chief executive officer earlier than planned after the man who led the company to become the world’s second-biggest brewer was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Clark, who has worked at the business for more than two decades, will become CEO with immediate effect, London-based SABMiller said today. The 53-year-old had been due to take over in July, a year after being appointed chief operating officer.
Mackay, 63, underwent surgery April 22, and his role will be kept “under review pending the outcome of his treatment,” SABMiller said. He had been due to take the position of chairman in July, at the company’s annual general meeting. SABMiller announced the leadership change in April last year.
Mackay has led the brewer since it listed in London in 1999, overseeing a slew of acquisitions including the A$10.5 billion ($10.8 billion) takeover of Foster’s Group Ltd. in 2011, which gave it control of about half the Australian beer market. In that time, the share price has risen about eightfold, while sales have increased more than six times to $16.7 billion.
“Operationally, Mackay’s been the best,” Anthony Bucalo, an analyst at Grupo Santander SA in London, said today. “He’s been the architect of the company we’ve seen growing over the last 15 years, and they’re now inheriting this incredible culture at SABMiller that he was instrumental in forming.”
“Alan Clark is more than capable of doing this job, and is deeply steeped in the culture of SABMiller,” Bucalo said. “He’s a pro.”
The shares rose 3.3 percent to 3,470 pence at 11:41 a.m. in London trading, giving the company a market capitalization of 55.6 billion pounds ($84.7 billion).
SABMiller’s decision to move its main listing to London was a “watershed that brought them from being a South Africa-based business to an international beer company,” according to Ian Shackleton, an analyst at Nomura. The brewer originally started selling beer to gold prospectors in South Africa in 1895.
Mackay also led the company’s expansion into North America with the $5.6 billion acquisition of Miller Brewing Co. in 2002, and the takeover of Colombia’s Bavaria SA and Italy’s Birra Peroni SpA. He joined the company in 1978 in South Africa, according to SABMiller’s website, and also sits on the boards of Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc and Philip Morris International Inc.
“Graham’s one of those guys who’s seen as one of the most forward-thinking leaders in the beer world,” Shackleton said. “They’ve clearly widened their geographic footprint hugely.”
The brewer said April 18 that it increased lager volume 3 percent this year, aided by gains in emerging markets such as Asia and Africa. The company is combating sluggish conditions in Europe by creating new packaging for its products, including plastic bottles in Romania for its economy brand Ciucas.
Mackay 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,” said John Manser, who will step up from deputy chairman to become acting chairman. “We are confident that under Alan Clark’s leadership the management team will continue to grow our business and deliver value for shareholders.”
Mackay said he doesn’t expect there to be any impact on the company’s operations or strategic direction.
“Alan will now simply pick up the remaining executive responsibilities a little sooner than expected,” he said in the statement. “I obviously have an additional personal objective, and that is to get well as quickly as possible for the sake of my wife and children.”
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