Pernod Ricard’s India head, Thibault Cuny, has stepped down from his role due to health reasons, the French spirits giant said on Friday, marking a high-profile exit at a time the company is fighting regulatory and legal battles in the country.
Cuny, who has been dealing with health concerns for some years, will take a break from his professional duties on medical advice, but will stay on with Pernod, the company said in its statement to Reuters.
Cuny took over as the managing director and CEO of Pernod Ricard South Asia in 2019 after serving as Pernod Ricard Brazil as president and CEO. He has been with the group on various leadership roles for almost two decades.
His exit comes at a critical time for the Indian business of Pernod, the maker of popular brands such as Chivas Regal and Absolut vodka. The company, which is embroiled in various tax and legal battles, is the second biggest spirits player in India where it competes with the likes of Diageo.
Reuters reported last week Indian tax authorities, following an investigation, have demanded $244 million from Pernod India for undervaluing certain liquor imports for over a decade to avoid full payment of federal duties. Pernod has challenged the demand in court.
The spirits maker has also been lobbying Indian authorities, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office, to resolve its long-standing tax disputes related to liquor imports valuation, saying they had “inhibited fresh investment” in the country.
In the statement, Pernod said it has started the process to identify a new leader for the “next phase of its growth and transformation” in India.
In the interim, Philippe Guettat, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard Asia, will take charge of Pernod Ricard South Asia, including India, the company said.