Lion has appointed Simon Edgar as the new General Manager of its spirits business, which comprises Vanguard Luxury Brands and Four Pillars, beginning the role earlier this month.

After an extensive search to fill the position, Lion CEO Sam Fischer believes that Edgar’s experience with both smaller craft businesses and larger corporations makes him the perfect candidate for the role.

“We are thrilled to welcome Simon Edgar to Lion as the new leader of our spirits business,” said Fischer.

“His proven track record of leadership and strategic vision will be invaluable as we continue to grow and innovate in the craft spirits industry.

“After bringing Four Pillars into the fold alongside Vanguard, our spirits offering has continued to go from strength to strength, we are confident that Simon’s expertise will further strengthen our position as a leader in the market,” he continued.

Most recently, Edgar served as the Managing Director of Innocent Asia at Innocent Drinks, where he was based in Hong Kong since 2017, and prior to this tenure, held key positions with Coca-Cola across Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Notably, Edgar has played a crucial role in a number of acquisitions, including spearheading post-acquisition integration efforts for Innocent Drinks, and this experience will be an asset after Four Pillars and Vanguard Luxury Brands formed a standalone spirits division in Lion last year.

Coming from several years working with Innocent Drinks and being deeply involved in the transaction between Innocent Drinks and Coca-Cola and the subsequent set up of their Asia business, Edgar is excited about bringing this experience to Lion.

“I bring a bit of knowledge about managing small and very different businesses, such as Lion’s newly formed spirits business, within a larger corporate context,” he said.

“In a near 25 years with the Coca-Cola system, all over the world, I’ve held major roles or led major projects in strategy, marketing, business development, M&A, supply chain, transformation, and people and culture. Now, I have the opportunity to bring that knowledge and experience to bear on this exciting new business.”

Before his appointment, Edgar returned from six months spent competing in sailing regattas globally, bringing a renewed energy to the position.

Speaking to The Shout about his initial priorities for Lion’s spirits business, Edgar said: “We’ve got some exciting new brands coming into the portfolio in the next few months, so a key priority is to make sure we land these well.

“We’ve also expanded the offering in our unique tapped cocktails which I’d like to see more available before the summer months come round. And let’s not forget our award-winning Four Pillars brand in which we continue to roll out exciting new variants – the latest being our Whisky Barrel Gin.

“But all this is really to serve the main priority which is to demonstrate to our customers that the combined Four Pillars and Vanguard business, with its unique stable of brands, is a key partner in building category value and dollars in the till,” he added.

“To achieve that would mean we’ve first been successful in inspiring the drinks makers – whether the bar person or you and I at home – with spirits, flavours and brands that go beyond the ordinary.”

Growing up in New Zealand where Lion is a household name, Edgar says that he has always had a natural soft spot for the organisation, but ultimately, he was drawn to the relationships that he would build in this role.

“In this case, it was the opportunity to help Lion extend its footprint beyond its successful core – something I have many years’ experience from my time in the Coca-Cola system,” he said.

“But the most important factor that attracted me was the people I met as I explored this opportunity. I was very impressed by the leadership in Lion and got on well with them from the off, and indeed the entire team from Vanguard and Four Pillars whom I had the privilege to meet at an event before I joined. Across the board, there was a real buzz and energy to get on and do great things together.”

Now, just weeks into the role, Edgar shares what has excited him most about this role.

“Perhaps the most exciting thing is that the course for this business is not yet fully chartered. Today we have a grand aspiration, some great spirits brands, great brand partners, a hugely experienced go-to-market team, a talented and energised group, and the total backing of Lion.

“It’s a pretty good place to start but it’s only the start. What excites me most is we now get to write the rest of this story.”

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