By Martinne Geller
LONDON Dec 18 Graham Mackay, the chairman of
brewer SABMiller and one of the best-known figures in
the global consumer goods industry, died on Wednesday from
cancer. He was 64.
Mackay spent 35 years at SABMiller, steering its
transformation from a South African industrial conglomerate to
the world's second-largest beer maker with annual sales of $34.5
billion and 200 brands including Miller Lite, Peroni and Pilsner
He helped steer the consolidation of the brewing industry
through a string of acquisitions over two decades that began
following the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the lifting
of sanctions on Mackay's native South Africa.
He was chief executive from 1999 when the company - then
called South African Breweries - listed on the London Stock
Exchange, until April this year when he took a medical leave of
absence following surgery on a brain tumour.
The reins were picked up by fellow South African Alan Clark,
who was already slated to become CEO in July with Mackay's
Mackay recovered enough to resume his duties as chairman in
September but his condition suddenly worsened in November, and
he took a further leave.
He died peacefully on Wednesday morning, the company said,
surrounded by his family, which includes three adult sons and
three school-age sons from two marriages.
With a background in engineering, Mackay had a reputation
for knowing all there was to know about beer, including the
science involved in its production.
"He put things in very understated and clear terms," said
Anthony Bucalo, beverage analyst at Santander. "He was always a
fair-dealing, honest CEO who treated the analysts and investors
around him, and his operators, with a great deal of respect."
SABMiller's board said on Wednesday it had appointed acting
chairman John Manser as chairman until a long-term successor can
be found. Guy Elliott will take Manser's place as a senior
SABMiller's stock was trading at 3,009.7 pence at 1245 GMT
on Wednesday, up 0.5 percent.
APPETITE FOR RISK
South African Breweries traces its roots to the dusty gold
prospecting fields around Johannesburg, where it began selling
beer in 1895.
By the time Mackay joined in 1978, its interests ranged from
food to property but it exited those businesses as it moved
further into beer.
In the 1990s, as chief operating officer, Mackay embarked on
a series of acquisitions in eastern Europe, Africa and China
that, while relatively small, were viewed as bold bets on
The bigger deals that put SAB on the global stage, such as
Miller Brewing in the United States and Bavaria in Latin
America, came later once the company was flush with capital from
its 1999 London listing.
In his last media interview, with Reuters in February,
Mackay said one of the biggest challenges for his successor
would be continuing to grow as strongly with fewer deals.
"I've been extraordinarily lucky because I happen to have
been running the show at the time when it was without doubt the
most exciting period in the world beer industry that there's
ever been and it can't happen again either," Mackay said.