A Portuguese cash-and-carry tycoon has claimed victory in his campaign to oust the chief executive of Stock spirits Group after Chris Heath announced his early retitement from the Polish vodka maker (Dominic Walsh writes).
The departure, with immediate effect, was announced two weeks after Louis Amaral used his 9.7 per cent stake to requisition proposals at the AGM on May 23 to remove Mr Heath, 55, and hire headhunters to find a replacement. Acting through Western Gate Private Investments, his family investment vehicle, Mr Amaral had dismissed Stock's recent “root and branch“ review of its Polish operations, arguing that it had failed to address the loss of market share and a fall in revenue that caused a series of profit warnings.
Stock said yesterday that Miroslaw Stachowicz, an independent non-executive director since November last year, would serve as interim chief executive. He is vice-chairman of Harper Hygenics, which is listed in Warsaw.
David Maloney, the chairman of Stock, said that Mr Heath's departure had come after several months of board discussions over succession planning. “I appointed an international search firm in early February to help identify a new CEO. I also discussed this directly with Chris,“ he said. The board had wanted to find a new managing director for its Polish business before ch nging its group chief executive “to avoid further uncertainty“, he added, and had done so last week with the appointment of Marek Sypek. “Western Gate's actions have clearly interrupted our careful planning and so we decided to accelerate the CEO process,“ Mr Maloney said.
It is understood that without the intervention of Mr Amaral, who is chief executive and 44 per cent-owner of Eurocash, the Polish wholesaler and cash-and-carry operator that is Stock's biggest costumer, Mr Heath would have retired at the end of this year. He is expected to have his 12-month contract honoured in full. He was paid £490,000 and had received no bonus for two years.
Mr Amaral had highlighted that the share price had lost more than half of its value from its peak of 315p and was still well below its 2013 flotation price of 235p. Its shares rose yesterday by 3/4p to 154p.
Fazit: Mr. Heath kippt sich erst einmal einen polnischen Vodka hinter die Binde.