Alexandre Ricard, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard, was once asked what kept him awake at night. “I go to sleep right away,” he replied. A better question, he countered, would be what made him get up in the morning? To which he answered: “this is a fun industry, full of great people, selling Scotch, vodka and gin”.
The 46-year-old grandson of Paul Ricard (who created the eponymous brand of anise in 1932) was born in Paris, went to school in Andorra and moved with his family to America when he was 10. He didn’t live in France until he was 18. His career has been just as multinational. In 1996, after graduating from ESCP Europe, he applied for a job at Pernod Ricard. His interview with the head of HR did not go well and he accepted an offer from Andersen Consulting. He really learned the ropes, he says, working in mergers and acquisitions for Morgan Stanley in London. After eight years, he reapplied and this time the same HR director gave him a job. As painful as it seemed at the time, that first interview was, he says, one of the best things that could have happened to him.
Knowing Pernod Ricard from inside and out, he ran the group’s duty-free business in Asia; Irish Distillers in Dublin; and the company’s distribution network before becoming COO and Deputy CEO in August 2012. When CEO Pierre Pringuet retired in February 2015, Ricard became Chairman and CEO of the world’s second largest wines and spirits group.
On his watch, the business’s organic growth has quickened (from 3.6 percent in 2016/2017 to 6 percent in 2017/18), operational savings have been made, digital transformation has been accelerated and two of its best known brands, Martell cognac and Jameson Irish whiskey, experienced double digit growth in 2017/18.
Ricard is not complacent – as he said once “Does anyone ever know everything?” – but he is, as he makes clear in conversation at the group’s Paris head office, enthusiastic about the business and its prospects. To succeed in today’s fiercely competitive market, a multinational like Pernod Ricard must, he says, “stay true to its DNA yet be prepared to change its ways of working”. He acknowledges, with a quick smile, that striking such a balance is less about words than deeds.
Read the full interview here (PDF 2.4 MB).
Photo credit: Frédéric Albert