Australian Vintage Limited CEO Dane Hudson is stepping down, fuelling speculation that the company might be about to merge with Constellation Brands.
The two companies have been in talks about combining part of Constellation’s Australian and UK businesses with AVL since last autumn – and no successor to Hudson will be appointed until those talks have concluded.
AVL chairman Ian Ferrier said Hudson would leave the company ‘to pursue other interests’ in May, with Neil McGuigan, general manager of production and supply, taking over as interim CEO.
Ferrier praised Hudson’s ‘strong leadership and commitment’ during his four-year stint as AVL CEO, including the crisis in the Australian wine industry and the company’s name change from McGuigan Simeon.
Hudson said now was the right time to move on, ‘as AVL is well-positioned to embark on future opportunities’.
The company said: ‘The board will commence a search process to appoint a new CEO once a decision is made concerning the potential merger with Constellation Brands.’
It added that those talks were ongoing, and that it would ‘keep the market informed’ on their progress.
If the merger goes ahead, it would create a stand-alone, low-cost wine producer, with AVL as the likely majority stakeholder and Constellation taking a substantial interest in the company.
Between them, Constellation and AVL produce roughly one-third of Australia’s wine.
Written by Richard Woodard