Lion Nathan is moving closer to appointing a new chief executive, according to press reports. Current leader Gordon Cairns is set to stand down later this year.

Local beer business boss Andrew Reeves and director Robert Murray are the front runners to replace Cairns, according to Australian Financial Review. A final decision is expected in June, although Cairns will probably stay on until September to smooth the transition.

Reeves is considered the favourite, according to AFR, with 18 months experience as managing director of Lion Nathan Australia, which generates almost 85% of the beer and wine producer's profits. He was previously managing director of Coca Cola Amatil's Australian business for five years.

But Murray, who became a director of Lion Nathan in September 2002 and is managing director of Nestle Oceania, is said to be an impressive contributor in the boardroom as a member of Lion Nathan's strategy committee.

Another contender, according to the paper, is Peter Cowan who has been managing director of Lion Nathan's wines and spirits division for the last 18 months. The poor performance of the wine business within the company may count against him, however.