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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Tim Atkin MW & Christian Davis

Philip Shaw, Southcorp's high profile company winemaker and the man widely credited with the success of the Rosemount brand, is the latest to leave the troubled Australian wine producer, as new CEO John Ballard introduces a raft of executive changes to restore investor confidence. A corporate statement released on 30 May, announcing the changes to Southcorp's executive management structure, said Shaw is leaving at his own request', although he will continue as a consultant. Despite the positive gloss, Shaw's departure appears to have been the result of an internal power struggle. One Southcorp insider told Harpers that Shaw was given a new job whereby he would have lost overall control of winemaking at Southcorp, with no hands-on control of winemakers. Basically, he spat the dummy.' Prior to Shaw's departure, the Penfolds winemaking team was said to be in semi-open revolt', with individuals walking out of meetings over Shaw's management style, which was also rumoured to be a contributory factor in the departure of John Duval, Penfolds' chief red winemaker and the man responsible for Grange. Currently a consultant, Duval may now take a more active interest in Penfolds. Another high profile Southcorp figure on the move is Chris Hancock, who is switching from global marketing director to take up a newly created role of executive general manager, industry and government. The departure of Shaw and the sideways move of Hancock to what amounts to a lobbying role completes the clear out of key Rosemount personnel, following CEO Keith Lambert's high profile pay-off. This is basically a semi-retirement post for Hancock,' commented the Southcorp insider. A replacement is currently being sought for Hancock's old position. Confirming Jeffrey Wilkinson as president, UK/Europe, Thomas Burnet as president, the Americas and Michael East as managing director, Australasia, John Ballard went on to appoint Peter Taylor as executive general manager, winemaking, and Michael Christopherson as executive general manager, operations and supply chain management. Commenting on the number of profits warnings and vintage downgrades the company has suffered, Ballard said: The new executive reporting arrangements are a first and necessary stage in providing clearer lines of accountability as a basis for determining key programmes to restore profitable growth. The new reporting structure will provide me with a direct oversight of all the key operational, sales and functional components of the business. The decision to separate viticultural management from operations will ensure a stronger focus towards these key aspects of our business.' Taylor, Shaw's successor, is a group winemaker based at Penfolds' Magill estate. He has been with Southcorp for 23 years and is said to be a popular appointment with the winemaking team. Ballard also named Christopherson as general manager, operations for South Australia and Western Australia. John Handel, who was general manager, operations, is returning to the US. * Southcorp's debt rating was cut by US agency Standard & Poor's to junk status on Monday, as concerns were raised that it could take a number of years for earnings and cash flow to recover. Shares in the company rose seven cents, however, as the City reacted positively to Ballard's executive changes.