Stuart IrvineBusiness

Lion on the hunt for a new CEO

Stuart Irvine has decided to step down as CEO of Lion after eight years in the top job.

Irvine said: “Now is the right time for me to hand the baton to a new leader. I’m proud of the Lion I will leave behind – a focused business well placed for growth at home and abroad. It is a business focused on the consumer, with the foundation of new data and technology capability and purpose at the heart of its decision-making.

“I feel very privileged to be a part of Lion’s story and have the opportunity to lead such a dedicated and passionate team of people. I am committed to setting Lion up for this next chapter by ensuring a smooth transition and working with my leadership team to deliver our growth plans for 2021.”

Lion noted that Irvine’s decision follows the successful delivery of a transformation program to refocus the business on its core adult beverages businesses, establish a flexible and agile technology platform and diversify into craft beer and spirits adjacencies as a foundation for new growth.

After successfully completing the sale of Lion Dairy & Drinks in early 2021, the company is entering a new mid-term planning cycle and Irvine feels a new leader should deliver the company’s strategy.

Lion Chairman Sir Rod Eddington said: “On behalf of Kirin and the Lion Board I’d like to thank Stuart for his leadership through what has been a time of unprecedented change across the food and beverage sectors.

“During Stuart’s tenure, Lion has become a re-focused adult beverages business and expanded its footprint in craft beer and spirits in both Australia and overseas. Lion’s international business is already delivering encouraging growth with recent results from the United States especially positive given the challenges of COVID-19.

“Stuart’s commitment to sustainable business saw Lion become Australasia’s first large scale carbon neutral brewer, identify and close its gender pay gap and drive gender diversity by setting ambitious all-of-company gender targets and putting in place concrete strategies to achieve them.”

The Lion Board has commenced a global executive search to identify a successor and said a further announcement will be made on a new CEO appointment in due course.

This process will take several months to complete, with the transition timing to be determined towards the end of the year based on the successful candidate. In the meantime, Irvine will continue to lead the business.

Irvine’s diversity & flexibility legacy

Irvine is also part of the Champions of Change Coalition and has been actively working to achieve 50:50 gender equality at Lion by 2026.

The Coalition has a globally recognised, innovative strategy for achieving gender equality, advancing more and diverse women in leadership, and building respectful and inclusive workplaces. In the strategy, men of power and influence step up beside women leaders. 

Irvine noted to The Australian last year that he felt there were aspects to the challenges of COVID-19 that had led to greater flexibility in the workplace.  

“The year 2020 has been a massive experiment in workplace flexibility and, in talking to our people at Lion, it’s clear that many are experiencing the benefits,” he said.

“It has transformed the workplace and in Lion’s case, I’ve been surprised by how productive we’ve been throughout this period.

“While talk of the ‘death of the office’ is grossly over-exaggerated, this year has shown how the opportunity to balance work and life, particularly caring responsibilities, can be enabled through truly flexible working that is the norm, not the exception to the rule. This has the potential to have significant workplace and societal benefits by supporting diverse and inclusive workplaces.”

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