C&C lures Heineken UK head to lead cider maker

David Forde to become C&C chief executive, ending search that began in January

Cider and beer maker C&C Group has poached Heineken UK's managing director, David Forde, to become its next chief executive.

The signing ends a search that started in January when C&C's long-standing chief executive, Stephen Glancey, stepped down, forcing chairman Stewart Gilliland to become interim executive chairman.

Mr Forde, an Irishman who has led Heineken’s operations in the UK for the past seven years, is set to join C&C “at the latest in early 2021”, which will allow Mr Gilliland to return to the position of non-executive chairman.

C&C has also appointed Patrick McMahon, current group strategy director, as group chief financial officer to succeed Jonathan Solesbury who has informed the board of his intention to retire in September.

“As we navigate the current challenges and uncertainty of Covid-19, these appointments represent an exciting new era for C&C which we believe will deliver long-term value for all our stakeholders,” said Mr Gilliland.

Mr Forde, a Heineken veteran of more than three decades, became managing director of the brewing giant’s UK business in 2013. Heineken UK is a leading producer of beer and cider brands in the British market, as well as a significant pub operator, with about 2,500 outlets in its estate.

“Today’s announcement should be well received, with C&C appointing a new CEO with strong and extensive experience throughout the supply chain [brand owner, wholesaler, pub operator] in each of C&C core markets,” said Goodbody Stockbrokers analyst Patrick Higgins.

“Overall, despite the near-term challenges associated with Covid-19, we retain our positive stance on the stock underpinned by the strength of its vertically integrated brand-led wholesale model. This should enable the company to outperform in its core markets over the longer term.”

Mr Glancey saw his remuneration soar 68 per cent last year, to almost €3 million, after securing a contract termination payment of almost €700,000. The executive quit after eight years, in January, a month before the end of the group’s financial year.

In its full-year results, released last month, the company said the pandemic had “materially impacted” its business.

It said off-trade sales of Bulmers fell 16 per cent in April and May while Tennent’s in Scotland was 42 per cent lower and Magners was down 7 per cent. In the off-trade, sales of Bulmers rose 62 per cent while Magners and Tennent’s were also up significantly.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times