The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has named Guy Sheppard, co-founder of Devon brewer Exe Valley, as its new chairman as it unveiled a new structure.

SIBA members have voted in favour of plans to merge the management of the trade association and the commercial arm, until now run as a separate entity, at its AGM in Sheffield today.

Under the new structure, the unified board will comprise 24 trustees from SIBA’s eight regions, a new managing director and finance director, as well as three non-executive directors.

The trustees will, as currently, set strategy for and ratify decisions by the executive, led by the managing director.

Keith Bott, SIBA’s out-going chairman, said: “SIBA is unusual if not unique among trade bodies, as having a thriving commercial arm in addition to our conventional trade association activities. Bringing these two aspects of the organisation together puts us in a far stronger position to move forward and help our members to thrive within a favourable political, commercial and social environment for British beer.

“SIBA brewers have been at the forefront of the resurgence of interest in British beer and we’re delighted with the change in perceptions of beer among consumers, retailers and politicians, which recognises beer as the responsible alcoholic drink. Last year’s cut in beer duty was a powerful signal from the government that beer deserves their support, and we hope to see that continued in next week’s Budget, with a duty freeze.”

Guy Sheppard co-founded Exe Valley in 1984 and is now the sole owner of the business, which produces 25 barrels a week.

He has been treasurer for SIBA’s south west region and head of the region twice. Sheppard has been a member of SIBA’s Commercial Board since it started.

Bott said: “I’m delighted to be handing the chairman’s baton to Guy, who has been a valued SIBA trustee for many years. He takes office at the start of a new, exciting chapter for SIBA and I am confident that he will do an excellent job, helping to take the restructured organisation forward to the benefit of our members and of British beer and brewing overall.”

The AGM also ratified the election to vice chairman of Jim Kenyon of Hereford Brewery.