The acquisition of a significant slice of the Seagram wine and spirits business will lead to fundamental changes in Pernod Ricard's operations and a major review of the company's strategy has been underway since the deal was announced in January. Burrows regards it all as an exciting challenge. As he puts it: "I have not had any trouble getting out of bed in the morning over the last few months." He has the mammoth task of ensuring that when Diageo and Pernod Ricard get the green light to dismantle Seagram, the transfer goes smoothly and the brands are assimilated as quickly as possible. The $8.15bn deal hinges on approval from the US and Canadian regulatory authorities and both companies had hoped this would come through during the summer. However, it is thought there is a stumbling block with the Diageo side of the deal and they now expect a conclusion at the end of the year. Pernod Ricard's division of the spoils cost $3.15bn and includes Chivas Regal, Glenlivet, Glen Grant, 100 Pipers, Seagram's Gin, Montilla Rum and Martell Cognac. Burrows says: "The sale of Seagram led us to a re-evaluation of strategy so that we put the focus on becoming a purely wine and spirit based company, which has meant going through a huge process of change." The visible signs of this are disposals within non-core businesses. It has finalised a deal with Cadbury Schweppes for the sale of Orangina-Pampryl fruit drinks division and talks are continuing for the sale of its fruit preparations operation SIAS-MPA, and BWG, its wholesale distributor in the UK and Ireland. Parting with BWG, which includes the wholesalers Appleby Westward and Key Lekkerland, may cause Burrows some regret. Although operating profit of the division in the first half of this year was down 7%, this was due mainly to one off costs caused by the introduction of the new excise duty system on tobacco in the UK and the impact of foot and mouth regulations on the retail business. The company was able to report turnover up 16%, of which the organic growth was up 12.6%. Burrows knows the business intimately from his time as chief executive officer of BWG. But at heart he has a greater affinity for the spirits industry, having joined Irish Distillers 30 years ago, eventually becoming its chief executive in 1978. One of the achievements of which he is most proud is the development of Jameson Irish whiskey. "I have spent my whole working life in the drinks industry and one of the things I have taken most pleasure from is building Jameson into an internationally recognised and successful brand," he says. But the present and the future is what occupies him most now. Burrows says: "This is a tremendously challenging period and the sheer excitement of the thing keeps me going." Even before the dust has settled on the Seagram deal Burrows has his eye on the future and is setting the company ambitious goals. Pernod Ricard is the fourth largest spirits company in the world. The addition of the Seagram brands would bring it into third place ahead of Bacardi, and almost on a par with Allied Domecq. "It is important for us to get to the number two position and then we can challenge Diageo for market leadership." By its nature, that has to be a long term goal, as Diageo is more than twice its size. With the Seagram business factored in, Diageo's worldwide case sales will be 95 million. Allied Domecq's is 39 million and Pernod Ricard's is 38 million. Burrows points out: "Diageo is still a quantum leap ahead, although the top five spirits companies only account for 20% of world sales. In comparison with other sectors in the food and beverage businesses, the spirits industry is a long way behind. Clearly there is scope for further consolidation within it." That Diageo should allow any of its rivals to gain any kind of edge seems incongruous but it stands to gain the lion's share of the Seagram break up (61.4%) and Burrows explains it could not have done the deal at all without another player. At the same time Seagram may have been too large a fish for any other competitor to swallow. "Diageo would not have been allowed to buy all of Seagram by the regulators and we could not have done it because we could not afford it. But the way we have split the portfolio suits both our needs and it is not often a business of this size goes on the market." The division of the Seagram brands is designed to give the two new owners the best fits for their portfolios, while not incurring the wrath of the regulators ­ a strategy which may not have been wholly successful. For Pernod Ricard this means less reliance on its French and other European markets and a much greater presence in North and South America. Its range will be better balanced with less emphasis on its traditional anis products, such as Pernod, and more on gin, vodka and whisky. Burrows says: "We want a portfolio which has critical mass and generates shareholder value. This involves local, regional and international brands. When we have made all the changes within Pernod Ricard that we have planned we will have a wine and spirits company that will be able to take advantage of any opportunities that arise. We are prepared to build market by market through establishing national brands as well as operating with international market leaders." He cites Larios gin, the leading spirit in Spain which, he says this gives the company a solid base on which to build its portfolio. He is also planning to fast track Pernod Ricard's increased Scotch whisky business when the Seagram deal is concluded. It will become the world's third largest producer of Scotch, and Chivas Regal will be the group's priority brand. A new brand owning company called Chivas Brothers will be set up for all Pernod Ricard's Scotch brands. Pernod Ricard will also become a major player in the US market with Seagram's Extra Dry gin. It is the category leader there and it outsells the number two and number three brands combined. Burrows thinks his enthusiasm for the changes planned has been matched by the rest of the company. "The reaction of the management within our wines and spirits companies has been very positive. The teamwork, enthusiasm and the hours they have put in are tremendous. "I believe spirits is a good market to be in at a premium level and there are good margins to be had. There is a lot of commodity business which is of little interest to us and is incompatable with our approach. "We also look to wine as important for the future. The New World wines represent a major opportunity. We intend to consolidate our position with Jacob's Creek and build on the portfolio and look for further acquisitions." With his fellow joint md Pierre Pringuet, Burrows is masterminding a strategic shift for the company, but this is a long way from his roots in Dublin. He became part of the French company when it took over Irish Distillers in 1988 and moved to his current role in July 2000. "No one was more surprised than me when I was offered the role," he says. He and Pringuet report directly to chief executive Patrick Ricard. Burrows oversees the English speaking countries and Latin America while Pringuet handles Europe and Asia. "We have a relatively small holding company and the operational responsibilities are devolved to our major subsidiaries. "Pierre, Patrick and I operate as a triumvirate and we share the same vision. There is little debate about what we are doing, it is more about how we do it. I believe in getting the strategy right at the beginning. It is then easy to delegate the responsibility for getting on with the job. This is why my own management style suits the Pernod Ricard business,which is set up for delegation." He divides his time between Dublin and the group's head office in Paris and although he is not a fluent French speaker maintains this has not been a handicap in this quintessentially French company. "When I joined in 1988 as head of Irish Distillers the convention was that as long as you could comprehend written and spoken French you could reply in English. And with the diversification of the company outside the French borders, more of our people are speaking different languages and my colleagues have a tremendous fluency in English." {{PROFILE }}