Graham Mackay - who died yesterday (18 December)

Graham Mackay - who died yesterday (18 December)

Graham Mackay, who died yesterday aged 64, leaves behind an impressive legacy at the company he joined 35 years ago, then called South African Breweries Ltd.

Now the world's second biggest brewer, Mackay was instrumental in building SABMiller - as it is now known - into the truly global business it is today.

Raised in Swaziland, Natal and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), he graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1972 with a BSc in Engineering and gained a Bcom from the University of South Africa in 1977.

Mackay joined SAB in 1978, working his way up the business, until in 1992 he was appointed chairman of the group's South Africa beer business. Five years later, he was made group MD, then CEO of South African Breweries in 1999, when the group floated in London. He held the CEO role until July last year, when he was appointed executive chairman of SABMiller, then became non-executive chairman in April this year.   

During the last ten years, Mackay led the company as it acquired the US' Miller Brewing Co in 2002, then took over Empresarial Bavaria in Latin America, before setting up MillerCoors, a JV with Molson Coors in the US in 2008 and sealing the acquisition of Foster's in Australia in 2011

“Under his leadership," the company said yesterday, "SABMiller made rapid inroads across Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America and the US. The business also successfully integrated beer and soft drinks operations in many parts of the world through bottling contracts with The Coca Cola Co as well as its own proprietary brands.” 

Reacting to the news yesterday, Ian Shackleton, an analyst at Nomura was quoted as saying: "He was one of the most compelling people to have a private chat with, in terms of thoughtful ideas. He was not the world's best presenter on a big platform, but on a one-on-one basis he was absolutely compelling.” 

Mackay also had a preference for asking questions of his executives, instead of giving orders, the Wall Street Journal noted. “Graham Mackay never gave me a direct instruction," SABMiller's current CEO, Alan Clark, told the paper this year. 

Journalists were also quick to pay their repects yesterday. Ian King of The Times tweeted: “Very sad to hear of Graham Mackay's passing. A superb businessman with a real social conscience and a true gentleman with it.” Beer writer Harry Schumacher said that he was “brilliant, witty, warm, and a real class act.” 

In one of his last major public appearances in February, Mackay raised eyebrows when he quoted the late jazz-rock musician Frank Zappa, although he admitted he was more attracted by opera. 

Mackay, who died at his home in Hampshire, is survived by his wife and six sons. 

To view a SABMiller video tribute to his life, click here.