• Kyodo

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Suntory Holdings Ltd. said Tuesday it has nominated Takeshi Niinami, chairman of major convenience store operator Lawson Inc., as its new president.

The major brewer and distiller made the decision at the day’s extraordinary board meeting.

Niinami, 55, will officially assume the presidency on Oct. 1 after gaining approval from the company’s shareholders in late September. Chairman and President Nobutada Saji, 68, will remain as chairman after handing over the helm to Niinami, who is set to become an adviser at Suntory on Aug. 1.

Niinami will be the first president from outside the founding family of Suntory, established in 1899. Under his leadership, Suntory hopes to strengthen its overseas operations through mergers and acquisitions.

Earlier this year, Suntory completed a $16 billion buyout of U.S. distiller Beam Inc. The company is also accelerating its group realignment with measures including the listing of subsidiary Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd. last year.

Suntory Liquors Ltd., a group company, is scheduled to separate its distilled liquor section and put it under Beam Suntory Inc. headquartered in Chicago.

Under Niinami’s leadership, Suntory plans to increase exports of whiskey to such fledgling markets as Russia and India, company sources said.

Suntory plans to expand the annual sales of distilled drinks to ¥1 trillion from some ¥460 billion at present including those of Beam, with the aim of doubling total group sales to ¥4 trillion (about $39 billion) by 2020.