South Africa’s Distell is investing big in Britain

Biography: Fraser Thornton

Fraser was promoted to lead the European division of Distell in July 2015, integrating Burn Stewart Distillers, Bisquit Cognac and the European commercial teams. He holds a degree in marketing and economics and qualified as a Chartered Accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers where he worked for seven years.

Fraser joined Burn Stewart Distillers (‘BSD’) in 1996 as Business Development Manager for North America and held a number of other commercial roles including UK sales manager and global marketing manager prior to the company’s acquisition by CL Financial (a large, privately-owned Trinidadian-based conglomerate) in 2002, when he became Sales and Marketing Director, before being appointed as MD in 2006.

In 2007, Fraser took on the role of MD of CL Financial’s European spirits businesses, embarking on a plan to sell off non-core assets and simplify commercial structures.

This was successfully completed by mid-2009 and delivered the required business improvement in terms of operating performance.
In mid-2009 CL Financial required Trinidadian Government intervention to support its liquidity position and this effectively suspended the next phase of investment which had been planned for BSD. In early 2010 Fraser was seconded by the Government controlled operating Board of CL Financial to the position of acting CEO of Angostura, one of the larger operating companies within the CL Group. Angostura, a public company in Trinidad, had suffered from similar issues as many of the European businesses, but under his direction Angostura was re-financed and a successful new strategy put in place.

In January 2011 the CL Board got into a major dispute with the Board of their largest drinks asset, Lascelles de Mercado, a Jamaican public conglomerate, with Wray & Nephew, owners of Appleton Rum, its largest asset. Fraser was seconded to replace the CEO and develop an exit plan for CL. Over the next two years, he sold off non-core assets before running a lucrative sale process for the remaining group assets, which was completed in January 2013, generating significant value for CL, which convinced them to sell their remaining European assets, the first of which was the sale of BSD to Distell in April 2013. Fraser also led the BSD process and returned to Scotland to make the transition with Distell.

A keen squash player, Fraser has stayed at Distell because of the ‘wonderful, diverse portfolio of brands all of which have strong growth opportunities.’ To realise those opportunities, his priority has been to invest in people.

In his own words: ‘I am very focused on developing our business for the foreseeable future. The future will look after itself, but eventual retirement will include taking the time to enjoy the brands I have invested so much of my life building – responsibly, of course…’

2 Responses to “South Africa’s Distell is investing big in Britain”

  1. dave says:

    Savanna South African Cider……made in Belgium from Apple concentrate……nice one guys

  2. Robert Barnatt says:

    2017 Pinot Noir , Western Cape. abv. 11.5% , Delightful and light, ideal accompaniment to a heavily sauced and meaty Pasta combination. Bravo.

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