>An American, Tom Burnet, has emerged as favorite to become new chief executive of the beleaguered Australian wine group Southcorp, replacing the ousted Keith Lambert.

The California-based Burnet was this week appointed to Southcorp's board as executive director, only seven months after being appointed chief executive and president of Southcorp's America's region.

Southcorp chairman Brian Finn and other board members have interviewed a number of CEO candidates identified by a headhunter consultant. They are believed to include Terry David, former head of Foster's wine division.

But Burnet is the only insider and Finn's statement on the board appointment positively glowed referring to Burnet's "extensive professional experience…with particular emphasis on brand management, marketing, distribution and sales."

It also dwelt on his US knowledge, Southcorp's most important export market. The company's urgently needs a new head after a succession of profit downgrades and a 40% fall in its share price since January.