Lion confirmed that chairman Geoff Ricketts would leave the company next month

Lion confirmed that chairman Geoff Ricketts would leave the company next month

Kirin Holdings-owned Lion Co, which will see its chairman leave next month, has confirmed that its CEO Rob Murray also plans to quit next year.

A report in The Australian newspaper on Saturday (25 February) had cited an internal company memo that said Murray wanted to leave Lion next year.

Earlier today, Lion, which owns the Pura and Dairy Farmers milk brands and sells Yoplait yoghurts under licence, announced that chairman Geoff Ricketts would leave the company next month.

Speaking to just-drinks' sister site, just-food, after its announcement on Ricketts' departure, a spokesperson for Lion confirmed that Murray was also leaving the business.

"Rob Murray will step down as CEO but not until 2013, so still some time to go and the process to find his replacement is in its early stages," the spokesperson said.

Murray, a former Nestle executive, has had an association with Lion and its predecessors for almost a decade. He joined brewer and winemaker Lion Nathan as a director in 2002 and became its chief executive in 2004.

Five years later, after Kirin Holdings acquired Lion Nathan, Murray led the integration of the XXXX beer owner with another of the Japanese group's local assets, Australian dairy business National Foods.

In 2009, following Kirin's acquisition of all remaining shares in Lion Nathan, Murray became CEO of the Japanese group's integrated Australian food and beverage business, which changed its name to Lion Co.

The period following Kirin's acquisition has proved a difficult one for Australia's beer market. In 2011, Lion's beer, wine and spirits division in Australia reported volume sales down by 6%, largely due to a drop in consumer demand for beer. Net sales at the division fell by 4% to AUD1.58bn (US$1.68bn).

The XXXX and Tooheys brewer saw profits before interest and tax for the same period drop by 7.7% versus 2010, to AUD588.8m. However, the company said that it had gained market share with XXXX and that Australia's beer market decline had moderated since the start of 2011.  

For the 12 months to the end of December, a AUD1.2bn impairment charge predominantly linked to Lion's dairy and non-alcoholic drinks business caused Kirin to report lower-than-expected profits.

Ricketts will be replaced as chairman by former British Airways executive Sir Rod Eddington.