ASC, Malt Whisky Society owner, changes leadership

Edinburgh-based Artisanal Spirits Company plc (ASC), owner of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), has announced a changer of leadership and a positive trading update for the financial year ended December 31, 2022.

ASC said David Ridley is stepping down as managing director and current finance director Andrew Dane has been appointed as CEO “following another year of strong growth.”

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. 

Ridley will “remain available to support the group until July 2023 in order to assist with an orderly transition, as required.”

The firm said revenue for the year is expected to show growth of approximately 20% over the previous year’s £18.2 million, with this strong year on year performance being slightly ahead of the consensus revenue forecast of £21.6 million.

It said its global membership grew 12% with 37,000 members at the year-end. Retention remained broadly consistent with the prior year level of 77%.

ASC said Ridley and the board agreed that Ridley steps down as MD of ASC “following six years with the group in that role, during which time the business has delivered sustained revenue growth and, in 2021, successfully IPO’d on the London Stock Exchange under his stewardship.”

It said Dane is charged with driving the next phase of growth in line with ASC’s stated strategy “which continues to serve the group well.”

ASC chairman Mark Hunter said: “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. 

“Sales have increased by c.20% once again and membership by c.12% and we remain on track to meet our target of doubling revenue to £30m between 2020 and 2024, whilst continuing to improve our operating margins.

“We have invested simultaneously in additional whisky stocks which continue to appreciate, and in advancing our infrastructure and global reach through the development of our Masterton Bond multi-purpose supply chain facility and, most recently, new distribution capability in South Korea and Malaysia.

“Looking forward, the investments we have made in 2022 will enhance the business this year and beyond.

“With whisky stocks to satisfy demand into the next decade already acquired and investment-driven cash burn having already peaked as we pivot towards sustained profitability, we are well positioned to continue expanding our business, benefit from the growing appreciation globally of small batch whisky and the key underlying trends of convenience, premiumisation and digitalisation which are set to continue to drive consumer behaviour.

“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.”

Ridley said: “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.”