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Exclusive: Major Changes At The Top For Stoli Group USA

February 2, 2018

Stoli Group USA is set to come under new leadership, with global CEO Hugues Pietrini becoming interim CEO of the U.S. business, SND has learned. Stoli Group USA’s recently named chief commercial officer, Rudy Costello, will now become chief operating officer for North America, effective immediately, reporting directly to Pietrini. Patrick Piana, who joined Stoli Group USA as president and CEO in 2015, and Brian Cox, who was named chief marketing officer early last year, have both left the company.

Under the changes, Costello will add Canada, field marketing, legal and human resources to his purview. Additionally, vice president of marketing Russell Pareti has been named senior vice president, marketing. More changes to the Stoli Group USA marketing unit are expected to be announced shortly.

Parent company SPI Group established Stoli Group USA in 2014, in an effort to turn around its flagship Stolichnaya vodka brand ($20 a 750-ml.) in the U.S. after a multi-year decline. During Piana’s tenure, Stolichnaya—which sells roughly 1.7 million cases in the U.S. annually—continued to face pressure within the competitive imported vodka sector, but enjoyed a turnaround in 2015, posting organic depletions growth of 5%, followed by a 3% rise in 2016. Last year, however, the picture was mixed, with Stolichnaya eking out a 0.2% gain in Nielsen channels and declining 5% in control states.

Meanwhile, Stoli Group USA has expanded aggressively into other premium spirits categories, adding Bayou rum ($20-$37), Kentucky Owl Bourbon ($130-$200), and most recently the Loch Lomond Scotch whisky range to its portfolio. Most prominently, Stoli is pouring $150 million into its forthcoming “Kentucky Owl Park” destination distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, with plans to develop a number of new American whiskey brands. Construction on Kentucky Owl Park is slated to begin this year, and the distillery is expected to be completed and producing whiskey by 2020.—Christina Jelski

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