Australia: Two former Diageo executives take on leadership roles at Lion

Sam Fisher, currently president of Asia Pacific and global travel with the global spirits company Diageo, is becoming new Chief Executive of Lion, the Australian beer group that has in the last years expanded its reach to the United States and other international markets.

In July 2022, he will take over from Stuart Irvine, who held this position for the last 9 years and signaled last year to step down as soon as a successor has been found.

According to Lion chair Sir Rod Eddington, Fisher is joining at a pivotal time, with the industry still navigating the impacts of Covid and Lion working on its new mid-term plan to return to sustainable growth. Lion, which is owned by Japanese brewer Kirin, is faced with falling mainstream beer sales, and has suffered a lot from shutdowns and capacity restrictions in the pandemic.

In order to place the business on a broader international basis, Lion bought in November 2019 New Belgium Brewing, the fourth largest craft brewery in the United States. (, 19.11.2019) This acquisition was complemented last November by the purchase of Bell’s Brewery, the seventh largest U.S. craft brewery. (, 10.11.2021)

Last year also marked other important decisions in the brewery's centuries-old history.

In September, Lion sold its LionDairy & Drinks milk and yoghurt operations to Bega Cheese for AUD560 million (USD 400m) and in the same month Lion Australia assumed total ownership of Fermentum Group, the firm behind the successful craft brewer Stone & Wood. (, 9.9.2021)

One month later in October, James Brindley managing director Lion Australia resigned after 12 years in the role and 27 years with the group clearing the way for David Smith, who took over office in January and like Fisher came from Diageo. Before joining Lion Smith was nearly two years Diageo’s MD Southern Europe and before that almost 5 years MD Australasia for the spirits company.

Fisher has now the difficult task of continuing the turnaround of the company and successfully implementing the new business strategy.

“On behalf of Kirin and the Lion Board I am thrilled to welcome Sam home to Australia and to Lion. Sam brings 30 years of global leadership experience, deep expertise in alcohol beverages and FMCG businesses and a strong track record in driving business growth”, Lion chair Sir Rod Eddington said.

Prior to Diageo, Fischer spent 15 years with Colgate-Palmolive working in Australia and several markets in Europe and Asia. He is also currently a non-executive director with the Burberry Group.

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