THE chief executive of John Menzies, Giles Wilson, is leaving the aviation services firm which has been hit hard by the fallout from the coronavirus to move into the drinks business.

Edinburgh-based John Menzies said Mr Wilson has informed the board of his intention to leave the group to become chief financial officer at William Grant & Sons.

News of Mr Wilson’s departure comes as John Menzies contends with the slump in activity in its core market triggered by the imposition of lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus. These prompted airlines which the company supports in areas such as ground-handling to halt most flights.

READ MORE: Scottish company sheds more than 17,500 employees around world amid aviation downturn caused by coronavirus

Menzies plans to cut around 300 jobs at Glasgow and Edinburgh airports to match its workforce to the reduced volumes of work it expects to have through the winter and well into 2021.

The drinks business may look like a better bet.

Privately-owned William Grant & Sons owns high profile brands such as Glenfiddich malt and Hendrick's Gin.

READ MORE: Profits surge at family-owned whisky giant

While the downturn triggered by the coronavirus has weighed on sales of Scotch the long-term prospects for the whisky market appear good. Demand for Scotch is being fuelled by the emergence of a new class of affluent consumers in countries such as China.

However, Menzies’ executive chairman, Philipp Joeinig, said he remained excited about the future for the group.

“We are a very strong market participant with excellent prospects as the sector begins to recover,” he said.

On Monday Menzies said it expected flight activity to pick up gradually from July. Lockdown measures are being eased around the world.

READ MORE: Menzies shares rise on hopes airport activity is about to pick up

Mr Joeinig said Mr Wilson had made a substantial contribution to the group.

Mr Wilson’s nine years at John Menzies have seen big changes at the group. Menzies severed its historic links with the newpaper business in 2018 when it sold its distribution division to focus on aviation services.

Mr Wilson became chief executive last year after serving as the company’s chief financial officer.

The previous chief executive, Forsyth Black, left in March last year, when Menzies highlighted “soft cargo volumes” and continuing labour challenges in North America.

Menzies said yesterday that to streamline the company’s executive structure Mr Wilson will not be replaced. Mr Joeinig will take a more active role in over-seeing the running of the Group.

Menzies said Mr Wilson would stay with the business until August 31 to ensure a seamless transition of his duties.

Shares in John Menzies closed down seven per cent, 9.8p, at 122.2p.

In a note on John Menzies, Shore Capital analyst Robert Speakman wrote: “We see material opportunities for Menzies to grow its presence and profitability in the coming years post Covid-19.”

Helen Cowing became chief financial officer of William Grant & Sons in May last year and stood down in November.