August 19, 2013 – Recently-retired Diageo CEO Paul Walsh orchestrated the acquisition of a controlling stake in Vijay Mallya’s United Spirits, and has now joined the Indian drinks company’s board as a non-executive director.
Under Walsh’s leadership, the drinks giant bought a 25% stake in United Spirits with the option to acquire more shares of the company, as well as control over day-to-day operations. The Telegraph reports Walsh will not receive any compensation for his role at USL while continuing to work with Diageo through June of 2014 assisting new CEO Ivan Menezes with transition issues. He is also slated to become the chairman of Compass Group next February, and serves as a non-executive director of Unilever, FedEx, and Avanti Communications.
Just-Drinks.com also reports that USL named former Shell India chairman Vikram Mehta to the company’s board as an independent director along with the Walsh appointment.
As a member of the United Spirits board, Walsh will have an as-yet-undefined role in the future of the company’s Whyte & Mackay Scotch whisky unit. The UK’s Office of Fair Trading is currently reviewing the Diageo/USL deal to determine whether the addition of Whyte & Mackay’s assets to the Diageo portfolio would violate competition laws. A decision is expected within weeks on whether to accept any remedies Diageo may propose or refer the case to the UK’s Competition Commission for further action. As CEO, Walsh indicated late last year that Whyte & Mackay’s assets would be surplus to Diageo’s needs, and published reports in India have suggested that USL might be willing to sell off all or a large stake in Whyte & Mackay to satisfy regulators.
United Spirits spokesmen have repeatedly refused to discuss the future of Whyte & Mackay, citing a policy against commenting on “market speculation.”