MillerCoors CEO Tom Long, who has led the nation's second-largest brewer since 2011, will retire on June 20, the brewer announced on Tuesday.
MillerCoors, which is a joint venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors, is conducting a search for Mr. Long's successor, according to an SABMIller statement. Beer Business Daily reported that Mr. Long, 56, was "leaving of his own accord to move back to his native south."
A former Coca-Cola exec, Mr. Long joined Miller Brewing Co. as chief marketing officer in 2005. He was promoted to CEO in 2006. When MillerCoors formed in 2008, he served as president and chief commercial officer. He began sharing CEO duties with Leo Kiely in 2010 and took sole control when Mr. Kiely retired in 2011.
Mr. Long led the brewer during a trying time for big beer companies. Both MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev, the nation's largest brewer, have struggled to grow their biggest brands as they battle competition from smaller craft brewers and liquor brands. Against the backdrop, speculation has existed for a while that A-B InBev might seek a large acquisition, such as SABMiller.
MillerCoors' has not been able to grow its two biggest brands, Coors Light and Miller Lite, at the same time. Coors Light had been the star performer, but has been in decline recently, just as Miller Lite begins to rebound from a long slump. But the brewer has remained profitable and has found success growing smaller brands such as Redd's Apple Ale, while finding solid and consistent growth for Coors Banquet.
MillerCoors on Tuesday reported that its underlying net income for 2014 grew 2.9% to $1.3 billion. But fourth quarter underlying net income fell 11.8% to $213 million due to "lower shipment volume, unrealized losses on commodity hedges and higher marketing investment."
Miller Lite volumes grew by "low-single digits" in the fourth quarter, while Coors Lite dropped low-single digits.
"I am leaving a company and a team, both of which are stronger than they have ever been," Mr. Long said in a statement. "MillerCoors is in position to capitalize on the changing forces within the U.S. beer industry more decisively than ever and my team has the passion, conviction, creativity and business plan to win in the long term in this industry."
Pete Coors, chairman of the MillerCoors board of directors, stated that under Mr. Long's leadership, "the company consistently delivered profit growth, pricing growth and cost savings, while dramatically improving capabilities in key areas like innovation, chain sales, revenue management, learning and development, and beer knowledge and appreciation."