MillerCoors CEO to retire as group posts rising underlying income for 2014

Tom Long is to retire as CEO at MillerCoors at the end of June, sparking a search for a succesor by the brewing business.

The news comes as the SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing Company joint venture posts a 2.9% rise in underlying net income for 2014 to $1.33bn.

The full-year increase was achieved despite fourth-quarter figures slumping 11.8% to $213.3m, compared with the same period 12 months earlier, as a result of lower shipment volume, unrealised losses on commodity hedges and higher marketing investment. However, sales to retailer volume continued to improve in the quarter, with Miller Lite returning to growth and increased profitability for the year was driven by positive pricing, sales mix and cost savings, the group said.

“In 2014, we made progress in growing our net revenue per barrel and transforming our portfolio to higher revenue brands while also restoring growth to Miller Lite,” Tom Long said.

“Last year we also continued to grow the ‘above premium’ segment with higher-margin offerings, notably Redd’s, Blue Moon and Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy.”

Long added it had been the “honour of my career” to run MillerCoors. “I have woken up every day excited to lead the company forward,” he said.

“I am leaving a company and a team, both of which are stronger than they have ever been. MillerCoors is in position to capitalise on the changing forces within the US beer industry more decisively than ever and my team has the passion, conviction, creativity and business plan to win in the long term in this industry.”

MillerCoors’ board of directors accepted Long’s decision and is conducting a search to identify a successor to lead the brewer.

Long, 56, has been at the helm of the company since 2011, having been president and chief commercial officer since the launch of the joint venture in 2008. He had been president and CEO of Miller Brewing Company since 2006, after joining as chief marketing officer in 2005. Before joining Miller, he served as president of Coca-Cola’s North West Europe division.

Total net sales at MillerCoors in 2014 increased 0.6% to $7.85bn, but were down 1.1% to $1.78bn in the final quarter. Domestic sales-to-retail volume fell 2.5%, and 1.7% for the quarter, and domestic sales-to-wholesalers volume decreased 2.5% for the year, and 3.7% for the quarter.

The brewer said it had made $143m of cost savings in 2014, primarily related to procurement savings, lower employee-related expenses and logistics and brewery efficiencies.