PIERRE Pringuet, the boss of Chivas Brothers owner Pernod Ricard, was yesterday named the new chairman of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).
One of his first moves following the appointment, which came on the eve of today’s Autumn Statement, was to urge the Chancellor to cut excise duty on spirits by 2p in his next Budget.
Pringuet, a member of the SWA’s ruling council for eight years and vice-chair for the past three, said he was “proud and happy” to take up the appointment at the trade body.
“I feel privileged to take over as chairman of the SWA and I’m committed to ensuring Scotch whisky retains its position as an iconic product around the world,” he said.
Pringuet, whose company is the second-biggest Scotch maker through its Chivas Bros subsidiary, succeeds Edrington chief executive Ian Curle, who was SWA chairman for three years.
A core aim for the trade body is to secure a competitive business environment, having welcomed the coalition’s decision to scrap the alcohol duty escalator a year early and freeze excise duty on spirits.
“We are happy with the alcohol duty escalator disappearing [in George Osborne’s last Budget],” he said. “A good move now would be a reduction in duty, a 2 per cent cut. Will we get it or not? We will have to wait and see.”
Before the duty freeze in the last Budget, governments had used the escalator to increase duty on Scotch whisky by 2 per cent above the rate of inflation every year since 2008.
Pringuet, who became joint chief executive of Pernod in 2000 and sole chief executive in 2008, said it meant Britain had the fourth highest taxation on spirits in the European Union.
Asked if such a duty cut was likely from the Chancellor in a period of self-proclaimed continuing austerity measures in the UK, the new SWA chairman said: “Ninety per cent of Scotch whisky is exported. We have to take a global view.”
His appointment was part of a raft of changes announced by the body yesterday. While Curle remains on the SWA council, Peter Gordon, director at William Grant & Sons, replaces Pringuet as vice-chairman. Ivan Menezes, chief of Diageo, and Richard Burn, Diageo’s policy and public affairs director, join the council, while Julie Hesketh-Laird becomes deputy to SWA chief executive David Frost.
Curle said: “I’ve enjoyed my three years as chairman of such a well-respected organisation which does an excellent job in representing the Scotch whisky industry globally.”
The SWA also announced it has put its Atholl Crescent office in Edinburgh up for sale, where it has been based for more than 40 years, and is looking for new offices in the city.
It is also looking to open a small permanent office in London to increase its lobbying impact in Westminster and Whitehall.
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