New CEO announced for Lion

After an extensive global search, Lion has announced the appointment of Sam Fischer as CEO of the Lion Group.

Fischer joins Lion from Diageo, where he is President Asia Pacific and Global Travel, and a member of the Global Diageo Executive Committee. Prior to Diageo, he spent 15 years with Colgate-Palmolive starting in Australia and moving on to hold senior commercial roles working across several markets in Europe and Asia. He is also currently a Non-Executive Director with the Burberry Group. Fischer is currently based in Singapore and grew up in Adelaide

Lion Chairman Sir Rod Eddington said: “On behalf of Kirin and the Lion Board I am thrilled to welcome Sam home to Australia and to Lion. Sam brings 30 years of global leadership experience, deep expertise in alcohol beverages and FMCG businesses and a strong track record in driving business growth.

“Sam joins Lion at a pivotal time, as our industry continues to navigate the impacts of the pandemic and Lion delivers a new mid-term plan to return to sustainable growth. His drive for performance and proven ability to lead with purpose and conviction will be invaluable as Lion enters this next chapter.”

In announcing his appointment, Mr Fischer said: “It’s a privilege to be joining Lion – a company with a proud 180-year history in Australia and New Zealand, incredible stable of locally loved brands and a growing craft beer business in the United States.

“I’m looking forward to connecting with Lion’s customers and partners across our markets and working with Lion’s people on this next chapter.”

Fischer will join Lion in July 2022, when current CEO Stuart Irvine will step down after nine years in the role.

‘I’d like to thank Stuart again for his continued leadership and his commitment to ensuring a smooth mid-year transition,” added Eddington.

Time right for Irvine to move on

Stuart Irvine announced he was stepping down as CEO of Lion in May 2021.

Stuart Irvine

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, Irvine said the company was entering a new mid-term planning cycle and he felt 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.”

David Smith joins Lion as MD

Earlier this month, David Smith departed his role as Managing Director Diageo Southern Europe – and former Diageo Australia MD – to return to Australia as MD of Lion following the retirement of James Brindley after 27 years with the brewery.

Smith replaces Lion MD James Brindley (below), who stepped down at the end of 2021 after 12 years in the top job.

Lion CEO Stuart Irvine said: “David is a highly respected industry leader and already a familiar face to many of our Australian partners. He is committed to growing businesses through patient investment, enduring partnerships and motivating his teams to deliver outstanding outcomes for customers.

“We look forward to welcoming him back home to Australia and to Lion in January.”

Smith said: “I am delighted to be joining Lion, a business I have long admired for its leading brands, great culture and fantastic team. I look forward to working with the Lion team to create growth for the business and our customers.”

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