Australian wine group Southcorp's chairman Rick Allert has spiritedly defended the A$7.8m (US$3.9m) payout package to its former chief executive Tom Parks after just five months in the job.

Appointed to head one of Australia's big four wine groups with a five year contract, Park, last June, handed over to Keith Lambert who joined the company following the A$1.49 billion reverse takeover by Rosemount wines.

Southcorp chairman Rick Allert told the company's annual meeting his board felt the arrangements were fair, responsible and served the best interests of shareholders.

The payout comprised A$1m in normal remuneration, A$3m in severance costs and A$3.8m for options accumulated as benefits from Park's former employer Philip Morris.

This cost had been covered by hedge buying of Philip Morris shares which had doubled over the period.

Lambert told Southcorp's annual meeting the group was cautiously optimistic about second half sales despite the events of September 11 and the fallout.