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Distilled Spirits Council taps Swonger as CEO

Chris Swonger will lead the Council and

Oct. 16, 2018
By Lori Sharn

The Distilled Spirits Council selected an industry government-relations veteran as its new CEO, effective Nov. 12. Swonger will also become CEO of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility on Jan. 1.

Swonger joins the $17 million-revenue Council from technology company Smiths Group, where he is senior vice president of global government relations. Before starting at Smiths Group in 2010, Swonger spent more than 15 years in the spirits industry and led government affairs for Beam and Allied Domecq, according to the news announcement.  

Swonger succeeds Kraig Naasz, who stepped down as Council CEO in June after less than three years. Clarkson Hine, senior vice president of corporate communications and public affairs at Beam Suntory, has been interim CEO since then. 

Ralph Blackman, CEO of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility since 1996, will step down at the end of the year.  The Foundation—known as—fights drunk driving and underage drinking and promotes responsible alcohol consumption.   

“Chris is a terrific fit to lead these organizations at a dynamic time in our industry. He brings a wealth of advocacy experience, vision and energy, along with background in our industry and outstanding passion for our commitment to responsibility,” said Council Chair Deirdre Mahlan, president of Diageo North America, in a statement. 

“I’m looking forward to returning to the distilled spirits industry, and will be honored to promote and protect the interests of such fine companies and advance their high standards of responsibility and policy advocacy,” Swonger said in a statement. “I plan to vigorously promote moderation and responsibility, while advocating for market access, equal treatment and common-sense policies that enable the continued growth of the distilled spirits industry.”

Recruiting firm Spencer Stuart assisted in the search.