The head of Brown-Forman's spirits operations in Europe, Africa and Eurasia is to retire at the end of May.

Andrew Smith has decided to leave the US wine and spirits giant after 16 years at the company and plans to focus on philanthropic causes, and possibly serve as a non-executive director on a corporate board, Brown-Forman said yesterday (25 April).

Brown-Forman CEO Paul Varga said: "It is not an exaggeration to say that Andrew Smith is one of the key executive leaders responsible for leading Brown-Forman's remarkable international growth over the last 12 years. All of us at Brown-Forman extend our sincere thanks to Andrew for his many contributions and wish him well in the next phase of his life."

Smith joined Brown-Forman in 1990 as vice president and marketing director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. When Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide was created in 1994, he was appointed to lead its core markets, leading to his current post by 2001.

The company, which owns brands including Jack Daniel's and Southern Comfort, said that a successor to Smith would be named in the near future.