Keith Lambert, chief executive of the Australian wine company, Southcorp, has left the company after the board requested his resignation.

"The board of Southcorp today announced that it has requested and received the resignation of Keith Lambert, director and chief executive officer, effectively immediately," Southcorp said in a statement.

The company's chairman, Brian Finn, will act as executive chairman until a permanent replacement for Lambert is appointed.

Finn said Lambert had led Southcorp through a successful integration phase, following the acquisition of Rosemount, but the board now believed that "different leadership attributes" were required.

"Following the review of the half year and full year earnings outlook, the board has directed management to focus on improving business performance through better product mix, lower operational costs and more effective promotional spending," Finn said. "These will be the priorities during the transition to a new chief executive and the senior management has begun to implement them. The board is grateful for the important contribution that Keith Lambert has made to our business and we wish him well in his future endeavours."

Southcorp reduced its earnings forecasts for the fiscal 2002/03 year by 15% last month, attributing the revision to the glut of discounted wine and increased competition. The company has forecast earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) of $287.1m for fiscal 2003, on a par with last year's results.

Lambert had been the group's chief executive since July 2001, having joined the company after its $1.5 billion acquisition of Rosemount Estates, of which he was CEO and deputy chairman.