Stock Spirits Group’s CEO Chris Heath has stepped down to take early retirement, bowing to mounting pressure from Western Gate Private Investments, its largest shareholder.

Miroslaw ‘Mirek’ Stachowicz will meanwhile take over as an interim CEO until a suitable replacement is found.

Stachowicz has been serving as an independent non-executive director of Stock Spirits since November 2015.

"We were delighted to announce the appointment of Marek Sypek as managing director, Poland last week."

He has a vast experience of leading consumer branded companies in Poland and CEE, and is currently serving as non-executive vice-chairman of Harper Hygenics SA and non-executive director of CCC, both of which are listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange..

Stock Spirits chairman David Maloney said: "The Board and Nomination Committee have been discussing executive succession plans for several months and I appointed an international search firm in early February this year to help identify a new CEO. I also discussed this directly with Chris."

"Our plan was to ensure that we had a new Polish managing director in place before initiating any other changes to avoid further uncertainty.

"We were delighted to announce the appointment of Marek Sypek as managing director, Poland last week.

"But Western Gate’s actions have clearly interrupted our careful planning and so we decided to accelerate the CEO process."

Chris Heath joined Stock Spirits in 2007 as chief financial officer (CFO) and took charge of the company as a CEO in 2009. Prior to this, Heath was group CFO and commercial director of Gondola Holdings plc.

Heath said: "I have thoroughly enjoyed my eight years with the company and seeing it grow into the established, publicly listed business it is today.

"We created some amazing award winning brands, supported by world-class production facilities and an outstanding distribution network."

"The Board and I have been reviewing Group succession plans for some time and we felt that now was the right time for a change of leadership."

Earlier this month, Western Gate Private Investments has sought for removal of Heath, stating that the vodka maker needs a new perspective to address the decline it is facing.