Foster's Group today said that it would replace outgoing president and CEO Ted Kunkel with Trevor O'Hoy, who is currently managing director of Carlton and United Breweries and a 28- year veteran of the Australian wine and brewing giant.

Kunkel will step down from the position on 5 April, 2004.

Since being appointed as managing director of CUB in November 2002, O'Hoy has been credited with overseeing a significant improvement in performance at the beer division. Prior to this, O'Hoy was Foster's chief financial officer and was responsible for the group's global financial affairs. In this role, he oversaw the group's move into global wine with the purchase of Beringer Wine Estates in 2000.

Foster's chairman, Frank Swan, said: "The board is delighted on behalf of shareholders, to have appointed such a high calibre executive to lead the company.

"Trevor has shown in each of the areas of the business in which he has been involved, strong leadership and a determination to increase value for shareholders."

"He understands extremely well the value of brands, the need to satisfy customer and consumers expectations, the importance of optimising the supply chain and the role people play in achieving first class business performance."

"Throughout his career at Foster's, Trevor has demonstrated excellent strategic skills and the ability to bring fresh, new insight to each position he has undertaken making him the ideal candidate to lead Foster's next generation of management," Swan said.

O'Hoy said: "It is an enormous honour to be appointed as Foster's CEO. I am looking forward to building on the strategic global premium branded beverages platform that is already in place and to maximising business performance in order to deliver better returns for shareholders.

"Foster's Group is a strong company. Its robust balance sheet position, cash flow generative characteristics and its enviable portfolio of premium brands position the company well for future growth," he added.

Kunkel will remain at Foster's until 30 June, 2004 to enable a smooth transition.

Speaking to reporters in Melbourne, O'Hoy said that changes were inevitable under his leadership. However, he pointed out that he would need time to reaquaint himslef with the global business.

But he did add that one priority was to better understand the North American wine market.

Putting together a successful wine team and business is "absolutely top priority," he said.