UK – Global alcohol giant, Diageo, has announced the death of its long-serving boss, Sir Ivan Menezes, following a brief illness that led him to be hospitalized.

Menezes, who has died at the age of 63, joined Diageo at its creation in 1997 and held many senior positions in a career spanning over 25 years at the company.

He had been the Strategy Director for Guinness plc. When Diageo was subsequently created through the merger, Ivan was appointed Group Integration Director tasked with integrating this ‘merger of equals’.

He was later appointed to the board as an Executive Director of Diageo in July 2012 and served as Chief Executive Officer since July 2013. He was due to retire on 30 June 2023.

Before his appointment to the CEO position, Ivan held several senior positions in Diageo, including Chief Operating Officer; President of Diageo North America; Chairman of Diageo Asia Pacific; and Chairman of Diageo, Latin America and Caribbean.

Javier Ferrán, Chairman of Diageo plc, said: “This is an incredibly sad day. Ivan was undoubtedly one of the finest leaders of his generation. Ivan was there at the creation of Diageo and over 25 years, shaped Diageo to become one of the best performing, most trusted, and respected consumer companies.”

“I saw first-hand his steadfast commitment to our people and to creating a culture that enabled everyone to thrive. He invested his time and energy in people at every level of the company and saw the potential that others may have overlooked. This is one of many reasons why he was beloved by our employees, past and present.”

Diageo’s market value almost doubled from £42bn to £75bn under the leadership of Menezes, who developed one of the world’s most famous marketing campaigns in the brand-reviving “Keep Walking” ads for Johnnie Walker starting with Harvey Keitel in 1999.

Ivan has also been praised as an inspirational champion for both women and ethnic minorities in business.

In 2008 there were no women on Diageo’s Executive Committee, today over half are women, including his successor as CEO, the CFO, and the Presidents of Diageo’s largest Markets – North America, Europe, and India, and almost half of the Executive Committee are ethnically diverse.

In January 2023, Ivan was awarded a Knighthood for services to Business and to Equality in His Majesty The King’s 2023 New Year Honours List.

The company appointed Debra Crew as the interim CEO. Debra, who originally joined the Diageo board as a non-executive director in April 2019, has been president of Diageo North America and global supply since July 2020.

She is said to have led Diageo’s largest market to 14% organic net sales growth in fiscal 2022, following on from 20% organic net sales growth in the year prior.

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