TWE boss Michael Clarke to step down

Australian wine giant Treasury Wine Estate has confirmed its chief executive officer Michael Clarke will step down in 2021, although he will continue in an advisory capacity for 12 months after his departure.

Treasury Wine Estates chief executive Michael Clarke is to step down in 2021 (Photo: Treasury)

As part of its succession planning, chief operating officer Tim Ford will step into Clarke’s shoes as CEO in the first quarter of 2012, but Clarke, who is retiring to the UK to spend more time with his family will stay on as an advisor to give strategic support across key initiatives including potential merger and acquisition opportunities.

Chairman Paul Rayner said it was “without question” that Clarke’s leadership had driven the “extraordinary transformation and outstanding financial returns” that TWE had achieved in the past five and a half years.

“The structural changes and initiatives delivered by Michael and his team have established TWE as a significantly stronger business than when he first joined the Company, and one that is very well placed to continue delivering sustainable, margin accretive growth well into the future,” he said, adding his and the board’s thanks for Clarke’s “tremendous character and exceptional contribution” to the company, as well as his ongoing support during the transition period.

Ford joined the business from National Foods in 2011, leading the logistics of the business, including overall accountability for the service, quality and cost of distributing 30m+ cases of wine. Roles within the group included two years as senior vice president of supply, Americas, director of global supply from February 2016 to which oversight of TWE’s Europe, South East Asia, Middle East and Africa regions was added, before he was made deputy chief operating office in July 2018, and chief operating officer in January 2019 after replacing Robert Foye, who departed abruptly due to a “breach of TWE’s internal policies”.

Rayner said his depth and breadth of experience within the business was well proven and he was confident Ford would be a “strong leader to take TWE into its next exciting phase.”

“We have an excellent Executive Leadership Team in place and the Company’s five-year strategic plans demonstrate that the best years are still to come. I look forward to seeing the positive momentum in the Company continue.”

Clarke is credited with turning the business around having  joined Treasury in March 2014 from Kraft Foods Europe after the departure of David Dearie.  He returned the company to profit in 2015 after a “reset year“, after culling 5% of the workforce in order to invest in marketing and promotion of brands, writing down $260m of assets prior to restructuring, offloading less profitable parts of the portfolio, including its Californian vineyards and 12 non-core wine brands. During that time the company bought Diageo’s Percy Fox and Chateaux & Estate wine portfolio and launched a French wine portfolio, targeting growth in Asia.

This year the company reported profits after tax up 16% to AU$419.5m in the year to June 2019, driven by premiumisation and the strength of the Asian market, in particular, seeing growth of 43% to $293.5million. The Americas, Australia and New Zealand were also in double-digit growth, while Europe saw a more muted rise of 4% to $51.4 million.

The group is planning to spend around $215m on its Wolf Blass Bilyara winery in Barossa and said it was

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