Molson Coors European Chief Gets CEO Job as Swinburn Retires

Molson Coors Brewing Co., the Canadian-American beer giant, will elevate the head of its Europe division to chief executive officer at the end of the year when current CEO Peter Swinburn retires.

Mark Hunter, who has served as CEO of Molson Coors Europe, will take the top job after Swinburn steps down on Dec. 31 and also will assume his spot on the board, according to a statement today. Swinburn, 61, has been Molson Coors’s CEO since 2008.

In taking charge of Molson Coors, Hunter will have to contend with growing competition from craft brewers and further an international strategy that has pushed its brands into new countries. The explosion of upstart breweries in recent years has brought both headaches and opportunities to Molson Coors. While the new brews are competition for traditional beers like Coors Light, the company has had success with its own craft-style products such as Blue Moon.

Hunter, 51, brings “years of exceptional brand-building and commercial beer industry expertise,” Chairman Peter Coors said in the statement. “The board is confident that Mark is the right person to lead us going forward and continue our strong momentum.”

Shares of Molson Coors, which has dual headquarters in Denver and Montreal, fell 2 percent to $71.57 at the close in New York. The stock has climbed 27 percent this year.

Swinburn said last month that big beer companies may see more consolidation, though he didn’t expect the kind of merger mania that created Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and SABMiller Plc in the first decade of the 2000s. Regions such as Asia have potential for additional deals, he said in an interview at the time. And some investors may be betting that Molson Coors itself is a takeover target. One reason for the stock’s recent run-up this year may be “deal fever,” Swinburn said.

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