Dunsmore team takes helm at C&C, supping with former rival

MAGNERS cider maker C&C yesterday revealed it had lured Scottish & Newcastle's former management team to the firm in an effort to turn around the struggling business.

In a surprise move, John Dunsmore, the former S&N chief executive, was yesterday appointed to head the Irish business.

He will now be competing against his former colleagues in the UK division of the Scottish drinks giant, which was taken over by Dutch brewer Heineken.

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Shares in C&C rose by as much as 30 per cent yesterday and closed 24 per cent higher at 1.42 in Dublin – their largest one-day rise since the company was floated in 2004 – in response to the news.

Dunsmore will be joined by former S&N chief operations officer Stephen Glancey and his S&N colleague Kenny Neison, who joins as strategy director.

The trio has been lured by a heavily incentivised remuneration package, which could result in 16 million shares being awarded to them – more than 5 per cent of the company – if they hit performance targets.

"We see this as a surprisingly high-calibre appointment given the size of the company," JP Morgan Cazenove analysts said in a note yesterday, adding that most of the interest would be in whether the new management would attempt to eventually sell the business.

Dunsmore, who oversaw the sale of S&N to Heineken and Carlsberg, did not rule out a sale eventually, but denied the plan was to tidy up the business for a quick deal.

Because he and his colleagues will receive the shares over a five-year period, he said that selling the company after a period of six months would be "sub-optimal".

Dunsmore said the major attraction of taking on the job was the chance to turn around C&C with his former colleagues.

While Magners' sales have been falling at a time when cider as a drinks category is growing strongly, the company had strong assets to build on, Dunsmore said. "Basically it's a good brand. At corporate level the company has had its troubles but the Magners brand in the UK still has very good customer feedback," he said.

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"But it takes time. If you're building brands, you can't do it in a quarter or two."

While the company would be competing with his former employer, Dunsmore said he believed that both businesses could prosper in an area that had the potential to take a significant share in all of the major markets in Western Europe.

He said he harboured no animosity towards his former employers.

During his time at S&N Dunsmore was partly responsible for the decline in Magners. S&N bought and then heavily promoted Bulmers, a similar premium cider served with ice – halting and eventually reversing the growth in sales of Magners.