As one would expect, yesterday's news that Remy Cointreau's CEO, Frederic Pflanz, has stepped down after just three months in the role hit the French company's share price this morning.

The announcement was made late yesterday, after the markets had closed, prompting analyst Trevor Sterling from Sanford C Bernstein to “expect a sharp drop when the market opens today”.

“The inevitable internal disruption and distractions will inevitably cast a further cloud over the stock,” Sterling said.

The company cited “personal reasons” behind Pflanz's decision. And yet, Pflanz will remain with Remy Cointreau as development director.

Could it be that the CEO spotlight was too bright for Pflanz? No sooner had he taken over the reins in early October than Remy Cointreau posted a marked slide in sales for the first six months of its fiscal year. A full-year profit warning followed six weeks later, with stark headwinds for the Remy Martin Cognac brand in China growing ever stronger. Rival spirit firms have also been hit by the anti-gifting measures introduced by the Chinese Government in late 2012

“It is possible that there have been disagreements about how best to respond to the significant dislocation in China,” Sterling speculated late yesterday. “We (and Rémy Cointreau) believe that growth will ultimately resume in China. So, we would be extremely reluctant to cut back on the sales and marketing infrastructure that has been so painstakingly assembled since Rémy Cointreau left Maxxium.

“However,” Sterling continued, “we do see legitimate room for debate about what level of A&P support is appropriate in the short-term to ensure long-term brand health but also respond to the realities of much lower levels of foot-fall in the traditional on-trade.”

Much as the long-term prognosis for international spirits in China appear healthy, there will still be some casualties along the way. Is Pflanz the first?