Newcastle Herald

McWilliam's shuffle

Author: John Lewis
Date: 11/05/2011
Words: 409
Source: NCH
          Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: Good Taste
Page: 47
THE McWilliam's Wines Group, owner of the Hunter Valley's iconic Mount Pleasant brand, will get a new chief executive officer next week.

He is Robert Blackwell, a Sydney University accounting-law graduate, who previously served as director of sales and marketing with Coca-Cola Amatil and as chief executive officer of Ticketek.

Next Monday he will take over as McWilliam's CEO - succeeding George Wahby, who has stepped down from the post for "personal health reasons".

George Wahby has been with McWilliam's for 13 years and has been CEO for the past five years.

He will remain a member of the McWilliam's board, serving as a non-executive director, and will continue to represent the company on industry bodies.

He is currently the chairman of the Winemakers' Federation Medium Winemakers' Committee and vice-president of the Winemakers' Federation of Australia. He is also a director of the Liquor Merchants' Association of Australia, a director of Australia First Families of Wine and has previously served on the AWBC Marketing Advisory Committee.

Robert Blackwell spent 20 years with Coca-Cola Amatil in various senior roles, including director of sales and marketing and commercial director of SPC Ardmona.

Between 2007 and 2009 he established and served as chief financial officer of his own education management firm, Clockwork Childcare Inc, in the USA.

He was Ticketek CEO during 2010 and this year established his own consumer services consultancy, Four Pillars Consulting.

In its 133-year history, the McWilliam's family wine venture has expanded from its Griffith base to become Australia's seventh-biggest seller of branded wines.

In addition to its McWilliam's and Mount Pleasant brands, it now owns the Western Australian Evans and Tate, Catching Thieves and X&Y labels, the NSW Hilltops Barwang operation, Brand's Laira of Coonawarra and Lillydale Estate in the Yarra Valley.

McWilliam's chairman Doug McWilliam said last week the company board regretted George Wahby's departure as CEO.

"The McWilliam family is immensely grateful to George for his contribution to McWilliam's. He has provided the business with incredible leadership and direction, steering the company through the important acquisition of Evans and Tate, as well as managing winery consolidations and developing and extending our brand portfolio," said Doug.

During George's tenure as CEO, McWilliam's had achieved sales revenue growth of 36 per cent, net profit growth of 12 per cent, as well as increase its bottled table wine share by 1.1 per cent during "one of the most challenging times in the wine industry".

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