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Grants hoping Polet can bring spirit of his past success to iconic distiller

Published: 10/08/2011

By Peter Ranscombe

Storage barrels of Glenfiddich

Storage barrels of Glenfiddich


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A FORMER Gucci boss who oversaw the growth of luxury clothing brands Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen is to join the board of William Grant & Sons as the family-owned distiller aims to make its whiskies "the envy of the spirits industry".

As chief executive and president of the Italian fashion house, Robert Polet also oversaw the development of labels including Bottega Veneta, Boucheron and Yves Saint Laurent.

At Grants, the Dutchman will turn his attention to single malt brands Glenfiddich and Balvenie, as well as the Grant's label itself, the world's fourth biggest-selling blended whisky.

The Scottish company - which was set up in 1887 and is now run by the fifth generation of the founding family - also owns Hendrick's gin, Sailor Jerry spiced rum and Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey, which it bought from drinks group C&C last year as part of a £260 million deal.

Polet will take up his post as a non-executive director at Grants on 1 September.

Peter Gordon, chairman of the Dufftown-based distiller, said: "Robert has a special track record of leading and developing luxury brands, which will be valuable to our board as we continue our journey to make our brands the envy of the spirits industry.

"We look forward to Robert contributing to the board as a non-executive director, and also, to his participation in strategic projects as agreed with our chief executive, Stella David."

Polet's departure from Gucci - part of Paris-listed conglomerate PPR, which also owns sports brand Puma - was announced in February when François-Henri Pinault, PPR's chief executive and son of its founder, took over the management of the Italian business. Polet had been in charge of the fashion group since 2004.

Prior to joining Gucci, Polet spent 26 years at Unilever, latterly as head of its $7.8 billion (£4.8bn) ice cream and frozen foods division.

Last week he was named as the next chairman of Milan-listed Safilo, the world's second-largest spectacle maker.

Accounts filed at Companies House showed that Grants' turnover grew by 40 per cent to reach £838m in 2009, the most recent year for which figures were available.

Revenues were boosted by the first full year of the group's deal to distribute brands including Stolichnaya vodka and drinks made by French group Remy Cointreau in the UK.

Operating profits rose by 9 per cent to £103.6m, although its bottom line fell to £114.7m from £129.2m after a £15m gain in 2008 from its Lixir joint venture with Remy Cointreau was not repeated.

The firm has three distilleries in Dufftown and two at Girvan.

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