Gordon Cairns

Sales and Marketing Expert; Current Chair or Woolworths, Former CEO of Lion Nathan


Gordon Cairns started his career with Nestle, Cadbury, the Imperial Group and then Frito-Lay, the snack food division of PepsiCo. He worked for them for 10 years in the USA, Australasia and Europe as Director of International Marketing, Director of Operation, CFO and lastly, as MD of their Australian snack food business.

Gordon’s approach is grounded in developing authentic, self-aware leaders who cultivate a performance culture with heart. Gordon has extensive experience in a combination of high growth, restructuring, and turnaround environments. His perspective on the ‘how’ you get there is as important as the ‘what’ you achieve, enabling success to combine near-term results with a steady eye toward longer-range business commitments and leadership requirements.

Gordon joined Lion, an ASX 50 beverage business, initially as the MD of their Australian beer business and subsequently as CEO for seven years. During his tenure, the company was transformed into a purpose and values-led organisation with a culture that was universally admired with a growth mindset and a total return to shareholders in the top quartile of global beverage companies.

Gordon stepped down from an executive career and served on the Boards of Westpac Bank (nine years), Macquarie Group (six years), Chairman of Origin Energy (seven years) and Woolworths Group (seven years), where he is currently Chair. He has extensive advisory experience with both CVC and Archer Capital, McKinsey and Luminis Partners.

In the not-for-profit sector, Gordon served on the Boards of Good Return (15 years), a microfinance provider to the poor in South East Asia and Opera Australia, where he Chaired the Audit Committee.

Gordon is a Celt, born in Bridge of Allan, Scotland and educated at the University of Edinburgh, where he graduated with an MA Honours.