Big Changes at Heineken Include Exit of Global CMO

Heineken USA CEO Dolf van den Brink Also Leaving Post

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Dolf van der Brink
Dolf van der Brink

In an apparent cost-savings move, Heineken on Tuesday announced global organizational changes that include the departure of Global Chief Marketing Officer Alexis Nasard. Dolf van den Brink, president and CEO of the brewer's U.S. division, will also leave the unit after a 6-year tenure and transfer to Mexico.

Starting in July, Mr. van den Brink will lead Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma/Heineken Mexico, which is Heineken's largest operating company. He will be succeeded in the U.S. by Ronald den Elzen, a native of the Netherlands and a 20-year Heineken veteran who is currently managing director for Heineken in Portugal.

Nuno Teles, Heineken USA's CMO, will remain in that role.

No other changes are planned for the U.S. division, according to a spokeswoman.

Merging the global CMO role
But the global changes are far-reaching. The brewer will combine the roles of global CMO and chief sales officer into one newly created position called chief commercial officer. That job will be filled by Jan Derck van Karnebeek, currently the president for central and eastern Europe and global chief sales officer.

Mr. Nasard, who will leave Heineken on June 30, joined the brewer five years ago from Procter & Gamble. In addition to the CMO job he is regional president for western Europe. Heineken in a statement noted that he "at an earlier stage indicated his intention to leave Heineken to meet his ambitions outside of the company."

Trevor Stirling, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein, said in a note to investors that Mr. Nasard "has clearly done a great job both in revitalizing Heineken's marketing and in putting a bit of spark back into Western Europe, and was very well regarded internally. However, he is also clearly ambitious, and with all the indications that Jean-François van Boxmeer is likely to continue as CEO for at least several more years, it is perhaps not that surprising that Alexis might decide to move on. Although it is not yet clear that he has a new role lined up."

Mr. van Boxmeer in a statement credited Mr. Nasard with changing the brewer's marketing agenda, while making progress in innovation and on global brands. He cited the company's recent selection as the next Creative Marketer of the Year by the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity; the award will be handed out at the 2015 festival in June.

Heineken will also reduce its global operating regions to four from five by combining western and central Europe. Other changes include eliminating the chief strategy officer role because "strategy development will be embedded in the organization," according to Heineken. Chris Barrow, currently the chief strategy officer, will depart Heineken in July.

"In the coming three months, further work will be undertaken in order to eliminate duplication, streamline processes and simplify decision-making," the company said.

"The changes announced today will make us a more agile organization," Mr. van Boxmeer said in the statement. "Our management structure will be flatter, our operating companies more empowered and our cost of doing business lower."

A global Heineken spokeswoman told Ad Age that "we expect the process to result in job losses, mainly at the head office and regional level, but we cannot provide further comment on how many jobs will be affected until we have completed the consultation."

The brewer reported organic revenue growth last year of 3.3%. For 2015, Heineken has projected revenue growth at a "more moderate level," adding that "continued volume growth in developing markets will offset more subdued volume growth elsewhere."

In a note to U.S. distributors, Mr. van den Brink said Heineken USA has "experienced an impressive business turnaround, restoring top line growth and consistent market share gains."

"This is the right moment to welcome a new CEO who will lead the future acceleration of this business," he added.

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