Beam Suntory’s CEO speaks on shared values

by Brittany Magee

Beam Suntory Inc. has successfully navigated the most transformative time in its 215-year history by remaining true to “timeless values,”  Chairman & CEO Matt Shattock said Wednesday morning at the first Chicago CEO Breakfast of the 2014-2015 season hosted by The Executives’ Club of Chicago.

“If we are succeeding in the next chapter of our continuing story,” Shattock said, “I believe it’s because in changing times we will stay true to those constant values of being bold, doing what’s right and always putting our people first.”

This past spring, Beam Inc. was acquired by Suntory Holdings, a Japanese brewing and distilling company, in a $16 billion deal. Suntory wanted to expand into the global market with the popularity of American bourbon and whiskey growing worldwide. The Deerfield-based business is now the world’s third largest premium spirits company, responsible for leading spirits Jim Beam bourbon and Yamazaki Japanese whiskey.

Shattock attributed the two companies’ successful union to their commonality of values.

“That is the cultural glue that will bind us together and ultimately determine whether this merger is a success,” Shattock said.

When Shattock joined Beam Inc. in 2009, the company established a strategy to make bourbon the No. 1 growth priority by becoming a leader in the development of flavored bourbon. Being bold in that strategy led to double digit growth in bourbon sales, Shattock said.

Shattock commended the boldness of Nobutada Saji, Chairman & CEO of Suntory Holdings and the founder’s grandson, in his pursuit to make Suntory a global company, which ultimately led to the acquisition earlier this year.

“Another aspect of being bold is to dream big,” Shattock said.

He recalled a press conference in Japan when a journalist asked Saji whether or not Suntory paid too much for Beam Inc. in the merger. Shattock said that Saji replied calmly, “No, $16 billion is not too much to pay to pursue a dream.”

Beam Suntory Inc. Chairman & CEO Matt Shattock speaks at The Executives’ Club of Chicago's CEO Breakfast Wednesday morning.
Beam Suntory Inc. Chairman & CEO Matt Shattock speaks at The Executives’ Club of Chicago’s CEO Breakfast Wednesday morning.