Tom Long is finally getting his promotion at MillerCoors. After sharing CEO duties with Leo Kiely since last year, the joint venture that owns the U.S. brewer today said Mr. Long will go it alone beginning June 1.
"Tom brings extensive experience to the table having served previously as chief executive officer and chief marketing officer of Miller Brewing Co.," said Graham Mackay, CEO of SABMiller, which in 2007 formed the joint ownership partnership with Molson Coors Brewing Co. "It is gratifying to see his partnership with Leo produce the kind of orderly and smooth management succession that we envisioned during the integration planning process." Mr. Kiely, 64, is the first CEO of MillerCoors, taking the job after serving as president-CEO of Molson Brewing.
Mr. Long is the brewer's president and chief commercial officer but has been sharing duties with Mr. Kiely, who will retire, since September 2010. His promotion was mostly expected, and today's announcement ends any doubts. "This is the way it's been setting up pretty much from the beginning," said Benj Steinman, president of Beer Marketer's Insights. "Leo originally was for two years, and then they added on a third year. In that period they shared the office."
Mr. Long, 53, is a North Carolina native with a distinct Southern drawl and a Harvard MBA. He joined Miller Brewing in 2005 as CMO after spending 17 years at Coca-Cola Co., where he held several positions including president of the Northwest Europe Division. In 2007, Mr. Long told Ad Age that his prized possession was his FranklinCovey Planner, in which he tucked a copy of his epitaph: "A nimble mind and generous spirit. A dedicated husband, friend, father and brother. And a man who loved competition and the game of life."
Although MillerCoors has been posting solid earnings, the brewer -- like much of the U.S. beer industry -- has struggled to grow top brands in the face of weak economic trends that have hit blue-collar beer drinkers the hardest.
Analyzing Mr. Long's promotion, Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. said this in a note to investors: "For several years, Miller Lite has been in significant decline, but in recent months the pace of decline has moderated to flat in March 2011, while Coors Light has maintained superior growth. Together with Mr. Kiely, Mr. Long has also overseen a three-year program of cost-cutting that has exceeded initial targets with savings coming in earlier than initially expected."
In a statement today, Mr. Long credited Mr. Kiely for his leadership and said he is "excited to take on the challenge of leading MillerCoors in the next phase of our journey to create America's best beer company."