Mr Davis joined from Procter & Gamble, the household products group, as managing director for United's European operations in June 1990. He was groomed by Tony Greener, now chairman and chief executive of Guinness, and became managing director of United in May 1992.
Guinness said he was leaving by mutual consent. A spokesman said his departure had nothing to do with the company's strategic direction. Mr Davis has also resigned his directorship on the company's main board.
Analysts viewed the resignation favourably. Andrew Holland, at Kleinwort Benson, said: 'The market took it badly at first . . . but the shares then recovered on hopes his replacement would know more about whisky.'
Guinness shares fell 16p on the news but closed at 396p, down 7p on the day. It is the first time the price has closed below 400p since early 1991.
Close followers of Guinness said Mr Davis's approach to the job contrasted with what the company expected. Analysts believe Guinness has fallen foul of a change in marketing policy towards selling spirits at big discounts, which undermines brand values.
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