MillerCoors CEO Tom Long seeks growth with craft beers

on 02/08/11 at 4:27 pm

Industry

Big brewing company MillerCoors looks to turn around falling sales. It has created a dedicated division for its craft and import brands, including Blue Moon and Leinenkugel.

Tom Long, MillerCoors’ new chief executive, wants to prove that big beer hasn’t gone flat.

But persistently high unemployment, an uncertain economy and young consumers’ shrinking thirst for mainstream beer are standing in his way.

A month since taking the reins of MillerCoors, Long is shifting the Chicago company from cost-cutting to growth mode.

SABMiller of London and Molson Coors Brewing Co. of Denver merged their U.S. operations in 2008 to better compete with Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis, the world’s largest brewer, which is owned by Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev. Three years and $684 million in cost savings later, Long said, MillerCoors, the maker of Coors Light, Blue Moon and Leinenkugel, is poised to boost profits.

“It is clear we have done quite well in capturing synergies, which was the promise of the joint venture initially, and that was stage one,” Long, 52, said in his first interview since taking over as CEO at MillerCoors’ Milwaukee offices. “Organic growth in craft and imports and light beer is our ambition because our future earnings power will come from that growth more than from cost savings, and so that is the challenge of the business.”

Long, a North Carolina native with a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard, has the manner of a Southern gentleman with the cadence of a marketing veteran. He spent 17 years at Coca-Cola Co., eventually serving as president of the Atlanta company’s Northwest European division.

Long joined Miller Brewing Co. as chief marketing officer in 2005 and was promoted to CEO the next year. He took the position of chief commercial officer when the MillerCoors joint venture was formed in 2008, ceding the top job to veteran Leo Kiely. Last fall Kiely announced that Long would begin sharing CEO responsibilities with him, although no titles were changed at the time.

Long took over as CEO in June, and analysts expect the transition to be smooth.

{FULL STORY via LA Times}

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