Heineken USA President Don Blaustein Steps Down

Move Comes Amid Major Sales Decline, Rough Market for Imported Beer

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Amid a brutal market for major imported beer brands that has hurt Heineken's flagship lagers in particular, Heineken USA President Don Blaustein is leaving the company at the end of the month.

Don Blaustein
Don Blaustein
Mr. Blaustein's successor will be the No. 2 U.S. beer importer's fourth president in five years, and changes at the company haven't been limited to that post. Heineken Lager, the company's largest brand and the second-largest imported beer, recently hired Euro RSCG to be its fourth creative advertising agency since 2006.

In a statement, Mr. Blaustein said: "This is not a decision that I made overnight. Given my own career aspirations and a different view of how to build our business/portfolio in the current economic climate, I thought it best that we part ways. Heineken USA has a passionate and talented team that will continue to bring success to the business, and I am personally looking forward to starting a new stage in my career."

Mr. Blaustein took over the top job in 2007, after Andy Thomas abruptly resigned from the position. In an eerily similar statement issued at the time, Mr. Thomas said: "This decision has been difficult for me. However, it has gradually become apparent that the company and I do not share exactly the same perspectives on the business. We have therefore mutually and amicably concluded that this is the best way forward. I know that Heineken USA will continue to enjoy success and I look forward to starting a new stage in my career."

Mr. Blaustein's move comes as Heineken Lager's sales are down 13% in retail channels this year, according to Information Resources Inc. Its smaller Mexican portfolio, led by brands such as Tecate and Dos Equis, has fared far better, but not well enough to overcome declines of that size on its largest brand.

Mr. Blaustein will be succeeded on an interim basis by Heineken NV's regional president for the Americas, John Nicolson.

In a statement, Mr. Nicolson said: "We are sorry to see Don leave. In his nearly five years at Heineken, Don has made strong contributions to the company including leading the successful launch of Heineken Light, managing the important Femsa portfolio and leading the integration of the Newcastle Brown Ale brand into Heineken USA. I would like to thank him for his commitment and wish him well in his future career."

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