Bacardi's Asia Chief Mahesh Madhavan Will Take CEO Job in 2018

  • Madhavan to succeed Michael Dolan, who will remain a director
  • In the interim, Madhavan to serve as Europe regional president

Bacardi Ltd., the liquor giant that owns Grey Goose vodka, Dewar’s scotch and its namesake rum, will promote Mahesh Madhavan to the chief executive officer job as it tries to make inroads in emerging markets and attract younger consumers.

A 20-year veteran of the company and its top executive for Asia, the Middle East and Africa, Madhavan will assume the job on April 1, 2018, succeeding current CEO Michael Dolan, who will stay on as a director until the 2019 annual meeting and then retire, Bacardi said Monday. In the meantime, Madhavan, 54, will transition into regional president for Europe, the company said.

Mahesh Madhavan

Source: Bacardi

Madhavan’s experience in markets where alcoholic beverage advertising is limited has given him insight into how to attract younger consumers who don’t follow traditional media as closely as their elders, Dolan said. Bacardi, founded in Cuba in 1862, is the world’s largest privately held spirits company.

“Our consumers have a repertoire of drinks that cross various categories, so the replenishment of the consumer base is really critical,” Dolan said in an interview. “Mahesh, because of his background and the markets that he’s lived through, really comes with an appreciation of that.” 

Trading Up

Madhavan’s experience in developing markets will also help the company attract consumers who are trading up from local spirits, Bacardi Chairman Facundo L. Bacardi said. Drinkers in emerging markets are buying more expensive alcohol as their disposable incomes increase. The company also sells Bombay Sapphire gin and Cazadores tequila.

“The work that we do around the world is really trying to get consumers -- who are coming from domestic spirits -- experimenting with the whisky market and then moving on to a broader set of options within the spirits industry,” Bacardi said. “That’s something that Mahesh has been terrific at.”

Madhavan has previously held leadership roles overseeing the company’s India, Thailand and Philippines, South Asia and Southeast Asia divisions. Paolo Perego, the current regional European president, will be leaving the company, according to a statement.

Dolan, 70, has served as CEO since May 2014. In that time he completed the acquisition of Angel’s Envy bourbon, oversaw the creation of a regional U.S. distribution network and refocused marketing strategy to reach millennials, culminating with the naming of Swizz Beatz as creative chief for culture.

Madhavan’s long tenure has given him extensive knowledge about how the company functions as a family-owned business managed by professionals, Facundo Bacardi, 50, said.

“In this industry where you have some big players out there, we are absolutely committed to ensure that we are the masters of our own destiny,” he said.

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