Photograph by Rodger Bosch — AFP/Getty Images
By John Kell
February 19, 2015

The decision by SABMiller Chief Financial Officer Jamie Wilson to resign in March has resulted in at least the fourth top executive change to occur in the alcoholic-beverage category this year.

Wilson tendered his resignation for “personal reasons,” and he intends to step down the board and leave SABMiller on March 31 when the current financial year ends. Domenic De Lorenzo, currently director of strategy, will become acting CFO and SABMiller said it is looking for a permanent replacement.

Just a day before the SABMiller news, rival Carlsberg said its’ chief executive would retire this year and be succeeded by a Dutch executive who would be the first non-Dane to steer the 168-year-old beer producer. At MillerCoors, a joint venture that runs the U.S. beer businesses of SABMiller and Molson Coors (TAP), long-serving Chief Executive Tom Long is planning to retire in June. Pernod Ricard also has a new chief executive. Alexandre Ricard took the reins as CEO and chairman at the French spirits maker this month. Fortune profiled that change in a profile piece this past September.

The changes are for a variety of reasons. At Pernod Ricard, the prior CEO had reached a mandatory retirement age. Carlsberg’s CEO exit comes as the beer maker reported a second straight year of weaker profit and gross beer sales volume, hurt by weakness in Russia. MillerCoors’ Long, meanwhile, is leaving on good terms after establishing cost cuts and pricing growth that helped boost profitability.

Volume growth for the largest players in the alcoholic space is either minimal or falling, as the major beer and spirits makers deal with heightened competition from small rivals and changing consumer preferences in large Western markets, as well as tough operating environments in emerging markets. The regulatory environment has greatly tightened in Russia and Turkey, resulting in weak beer sales, while the spirits industry has been hit by softness in China as a result of an anti-extravagance campaign by the government. The new executives that are appointed to replace the outgoing leaders will be responsible for confronting those challenging dynamics.

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