McWilliam’s Wine Group (MWG) has announced that current CEO Jeff McWilliam will be stepping aside from the role, effective 23 July 2018.
McWilliam took up an interim CEO position in 2016 under recommendation from the MWG board of directors to help guide the company through a significant restructure plan and a cultural change and he told TheShout, that with that change now managed it was the right time to bring in a CEO who could take the business forward in an FMCG and sales sense.
“Back in 2015 we put together a significant restructure plan for the business and we had what we felt was a very well planned and stepped out three year journey,” McWilliam told TheShout. “And the board and myself thought at the time that it was very important that a family member stepped into the business and took it through that change.
“We knew that there was going to be a lot of disruption, we knew we had to bring the family in on the journey and so it was decided that I was the best person to do that. It just so happened that my background lent itself to the types of things that we had planned, including moving production operations from Western Sydney down to the winery, reshaping our whole supply change and our whole operational footprint changed, and then moving our head office from Chullora into central Sydney.”
That aspect of the cultural change for the business was always the plan and remit for McWilliam’s time as CEO and with that change in place, the company looked to the future with the sales and marketing of its wine and wanted to bring in someone with more FMCG knowledge and experience to lead that charge.
“We genuinely feel like we’ve done all the heavy lifting and resetting the business in the right direction, getting the foundations and now the next three to five years is about driving the business forward from an FMCG, branding, marketing and sales point of view,” McWilliam told TheShout.
After an extensive search MWG has appointed David Pitt as CEO. Pitt’s career has seen him work at multinationals including Campbells Arnott’s and Red Bull and most recently he has held both the Sales Director and General Manager roles for Parmalat Australia.
McWilliam said that it was Pitt’s proven track record that made him the right person for the role and for the group.
“We were able to sit down with David and go through what he has achieved in each of his roles and he has been consistently able to deliver for those businesses, and it was that proven track record, the key relationships he has with retailers and the fact that he has been in that space and he has done the job, which was really key for us.
“Myself and our Chairman Jim Brayne looked at both of our strengths and we feel that David’s appointment is really complementing and strengthening the leadership of the business. It’s just that Jim and I will support David from the board, and I will still have a key role to play in the industry representing our family and the winery.”
Speaking about his appointment, Pitt said: “I’m extremely pleased to be joining such an iconic Australian family owned organisation in the McWilliams Wines Group. I have a long and proud history in the liquor industry and to be returning at the helm of such an icon is a challenge I’m excited to be taking on.”
With the new CEO coming into the role from 23 July, McWilliam is starting to look to what his future will hold.
“I will stay intimately involved in the business. What a lot of people forget is that I am an owner of the business, and I have been the family representative for some time. When I stepped into the Chair role in 2013, it was very much the first step in our generational succession and I was very fortunate to be selected as the family member to hold that mantle.
“There is still plenty for me to do, I’m enjoying spending time in our international markets and engaging with our customers and distributors. So I will sit down with David and we will work out how I do that respectfully and not step on his toes. And I will also continue to be our representative on the industry bodies and boards, so that will be the focus for me once we’ve worked through an extensive and comprehensive handover to David.”