Stock Spirits chief Chris Heath steps down after Western Gate call


Chris Heath has stepped down as chief executive of London-listed vodka maker Stock Spirits, just weeks after the firm's biggest shareholder called for him to be ousted.

The company said in a statement on Monday that the 55-year-old will take early retirement and Miroslaw "Mirek" Stachowicz, an independent non-executive director, will serve as interim chief executive.

Earlier this month, Western Gate Private Investments, Stock Spirit's largest individual shareholder, called for Mr Heath to be ousted. It urged "fresh perspectives" in order to address a decline in sales in the firm's key Polish market.

David Maloney, chairman of Stock Spirits, said: "The board and nomination committee have been discussing executive succession plans for several months and I appointed an international search firm in early February this year to help identify a new CEO. I also discussed this directly with Chris.

"But Western Gate's actions have clearly interrupted our careful planning and so we decided to accelerate the CEO process."

Western Gate is controlled by Portuguese businessman Luis Amaral, the owner of Eurocash, Poland's largest food wholesaler and also a customer of Stock Spirits.

"Financial performance has been poor, market share has been lost in its core Polish market, salaries and costs are too high and remote control management of the business from the UK, where the company has no major revenue generating operations, is clearly not working," Mr Amaral said on April 5.

It is understood that Mr Maloney will later this week launch a rebuttal of Western Gate's resolutions, which also included calling for the appointment of two non-executive directors.