SABMiller Chair Graham Mackay Dead at 64

SABMiller chairman and former chief executive Graham Mackay died yesterday of a brain tumor at the age of 64 with his family at his side.

Born on July 26, 1949, Mackay was brought up in Swaziland, Natal and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1972 with a BSc in engineering and gained a Bcom from the University of South Africa in 1977.

He joined the South African Breweries Limited in 1978 and quickly ascended through the business, holding a number of senior positions in the group including his appointment as executive chairman of the beer business in South Africa in 1992.

He was appointed group managing director in 1997 and chief executive of South African Breweries plc upon its listing on the London Stock Exchange in 1999. In July 2012 he was appointed executive chairman of SABMiller plc, becoming non-executive chairman in April 2013.

Mackay led SABMiller’s rapid global expansion and was instrumental in several path-breaking initiatives including the acquisition of Miller Brewing Company in the USA, 2002, and subsequent re-naming of the business as SABMiller plc; the acquisition of Bavaria in Latin America, 2005; formation of the MillerCoors joint venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors in the USA, 2008; and the acquisition of Foster’s in Australia, 2011.

Under his leadership SABMiller made rapid inroads across Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America and the United States. The business also successfully integrated beer and soft drinks operations in many parts of the world through bottling contracts with The Coca Cola Company as well as its own proprietary brands.

In addition to his responsibilities at SABMiller, Mackay held a number of external directorships, including positions on the Boards of Reckitt Benckiser Group plc, where he was latterly Senior Independent Non-executive Director, and Philip Morris International Inc.

In 2010 Mackay received the Beverage Forum Lifetime Achievement Award.

Outside his busy work life, Mackay enjoyed squash, music and literature. He is survived by his wife and six sons. 

The SABMiller board will make a further announcement in due course about the appointment of a chairman to succeed Manser for the longer term, but it is expected that to facilitate succession planning and to allow an appropriate period of familiarization and handover, Manser will defer his previously expected retirement date for approximately one year to July 2015.

The board has appointed acting chairman John Manser as chairman with immediate effect, and has appointed Guy Elliott as senior independent director in succession to John Manser.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Graham’s wife and family,” Manser says on behalf of the board. “Graham was one of the most inspirational and successful leaders in international business by any measure. Everyone in the SABMiller family has been blessed by his vision, his loyalty, and his friendship during his 35 years with the group. He will be deeply missed. The board has every confidence that under Alan Clark's leadership, we will continue to build on Graham's legacy, and fulfill his vision to make SABMiller the most admired company in the global beer industry.”

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