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Ridley replaced at helm of whisky curator ASC

David Ridley: left the company

David Ridley is stepping down as managing director of the Artisanal Spirits Company, owner of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and is being replaced with immediate effect by finance director Andrew Dane as chief executive.

Mr Dane will focus on “driving the next phase of growth in line with ASC’s stated strategy which continues to serve the group well”, said the company in a statement.

Billy McCarter, formerly group financial controller, has been appointed as interim finance director and the board has initiated a search process, comprising both internal and external candidates, to identify a long-term CFO.  Shareholders will be updated on the outcome of this process in due course

The company said Mr Ridley, who has been in post for six years, will remain available until July to help with the transition.

During his time at the helm the business has delivered sustained revenue growth and, in 2021 was admitted to the Alternative Investment Market.

In a trading update, the company said revenue for the year ended 31 December is expected to show growth of approximately 20%, slightly ahead of the consensus revenue forecast of £21.6 million.

Global membership grew by approximately 12% with c.37,000 members at the year-end, up from 33,000 at the end of 2021. Retention remained broadly consistent with the prior year level of 77%, demonstrating the loyal nature of the membership base. 

Continued recovery in UK member venues and events with sales now seeing the benefits of more normalised trading conditions with a record December.

Masterton Bond, the Group’s multi-purpose supply chain facility, became operational on time and to budget in Q4 2022

The facility has had an encouraging start and has commenced bottling operations with c.20,000 bottles produced, hundreds of casks delivered and first pallets dispatched from site prior to the year end.

Mark Hunter
Mark Hunter: strategic progress

It is anticipated that, once fully operational, this facility will improve operating margins by c.2%, with the initial benefits now starting to be realised and the full effect expected early in the current financial year.

An RBS revolving credit facility has been extended by two years and increased to £21.5 million on more favourable terms, providing additional flexibility to expand and grow all aspects of the business, ranging from membership, continued investment in the group’s brand, whisky stocks and international reach. This enhanced bank facility provides significant headroom to further grow the business.

Continued international expansion has taken place during the year with an inaugural franchise agreement in South Korea and a new partnership with Drinks Alliance in Malaysia.

An update on the American Whiskey Society proposition will be given with the group’s full year results in March 2023.

The group said its is confident of continued progress in FY 2023, entering the year from a position of strength, and continuing to deliver against the stated strategy, consistent with market expectations.

Mark Hunter, chairman, commented: “2022 was another strong year of considerable strategic progress together with further consistent delivery of both financial and operational goals.

“We continue to leverage and evolve our pioneering business model to maximise our long-term global growth opportunity.  

“We remain on track to meet our target of doubling revenue to £30m between 2020 and 2024, whilst continuing to improve our operating margins.”

On Mr Ridley’s departure, he said: “I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Board to thank David for his leadership and significant contribution at the helm of ASC over the last six years. 

“He has presided over impressive levels of consistent growth during his tenure and he leaves ASC in excellent shape.  David leaves with our very best wishes and we wish him well for the future. 

“ASC is fortunate to have a strong and able successor in Andrew Dane and the board has confidence in his readiness and capability as CEO. 

“Since joining in 2020, Andrew has demonstrated strong operational and commercial credentials in addition to his proven financial skillset. 

“He knows the business and ASC’s wider market structure well and has been instrumental in developing and implementing the Group’s growth strategy in conjunction with the wider Executive team.

“These qualities equip him well to provide continued leadership as ASC progresses its stated strategy to unlock its significant future growth opportunity.”

Mr Ridley, commented: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with ASC and am proud of the Group’s success to date. 

“There is demonstrable momentum in the business and following another year of strong growth, I feel the time is now right for me to seek a fresh challenge and hand over the reins for the next phase of ASC’s development.  I wish Andrew and the wider team every success for the future.”

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