Edward D. Shirley, who departed Procter & Gamble as vice chairman of beauty & grooming last year, is taking the reins at Bacardi Ltd., the largest privately held spirits company in the world and the third largest overall. Founded in Cuba in 1862, it has been based in Bermuda, with a distillery in Puerto Rico, since its assets were seized during the Cuban revolution in 1960.
Shirley, who has a seat on the Bacardi board, starts his new job today. He replaces 57-year-old Seamus McBride, a former Colgate-Palmolive executive who held the position for a little more than three years and is said to be retiring. Among other accomplishments cited in a statement, McBride is credited with “transforming marketing capabilities, with the recent global launch of Bacardi OakHeart spiced rum as an example of how this has been brought to life.”
The search for a new CEO reportedly had been gestating for nine months.
“We were looking for somebody who understands premium brands, who has international experience and also has experience marketing both mass-brands and luxury brands, as well as someone able to transform their own culture,” Bacardi chairman Facundo Bacardi tellsShanken News Daily, which broke the news Friday. “We did consider our internal group, but the general feeling was that we were a couple of years away from being able to select somebody internally.”
Bacardi has more than 200 brands and labels in its portfolio including the world's best-selling rum, Grey Goose vodka, Dewar’s Scotch whisky, Bombay Sapphire gin, Martini vermouth and sparkling Cazadores 100% blue agave tequila and Eristoff vodka.
“We look forward to benefiting from [Shirley’s] deep and broad experiences in brand-building, sales, and general management across a variety of roles and businesses throughout the world," Bacardi says in a press release announcing the appointment.
Bacardi’s business is growing again after a decline tied to the recession, reports the Miami Herald’s Elaine Walker. “But Shirley will face challenges continuing to grow the brand in emerging markets and picking up the pace of growth in the U.S. through product and marketing innovation,” Walker writes.
“You’ve got to excite the consumer,” Shirley tells Walker. “Even in a difficult environment, look at what Apple does just by bringing innovation that’s exciting to the consumer. We need to be engaging the consumer in a meaningful and relevant message that gets the consumer talking about the brand.”
The company is committed to remaining private, Shirley tells the Wall Street Journal’s Emily Glazer and Joann S. Lublin, and that’s just the way he apparently likes it. "I didn't join the company to make it public," he says. "I like that it's private, because it'll help us make decisions more focused on the long term instead of quarter to quarter."
Shirley came to P&G in 2005 with its acquisition of Gillette, where he had built his career. He had been considered a leading candidate to succeed chairman-CEO Bob McDonald, Ad Age’s Jack Neff reported when his departure was announced.
The units he led had grown through acquisitions for which P&G paid close to $80 billion collectively in the past decade, Neff reported, “but they had lagged top-line results for the rest of the company and key competitors in years prior to and after” Shirley took charge of them in 2008.
Shirley reorganized the businesses along consumer lines -- dividing them into the female beauty and male-grooming businesses –- and they subsequently had seven consecutive quarters of organic sales growth. "He's been an outstanding leader," P&G spokesman John Fox, a former colleague at Gillette, said at the time.
Shirley reportedly had a three-year noncompete agreement with P&G but he claims that he wouldn’t want to go head-to-head against it in any event.
"I worked very hard to build the business that we had while I was at P&G, and I really couldn't see myself competing directly,” he tells Glazer and Lublin. “In this case, there's no conflict."
Meanwhile, in one of the more exclusive sports sponsorships this side of Ford Trucks’ Polo & Balloon Festival at the Palm Beach Polo and Hunt Club in May, the Miami Herald’s Susan Cocking reports that Frenchman Xavier Rohart -- a six-time Olympian -– “added a new title to his sailing résumé Saturday: winning skipper of the 85th Bacardi Cup on Biscayne Bay.”
Now that Jeremy has cooled down, and sportswriters are fondly remembering yesteryear with phrases such as “the craze that was "Linsanity," let the Rohartmania begin.