Diageo CEO Sir Ivan Menezes dies after brief illness
Diageo has announced that its CEO Sir Ivan Menezes has died following a brief illness with his family at his side.
Following Diageo’s statements on 5 June regarding the running of the company, and Menezes’ hospitalisation, the UK drinks giant has since revealed that Menezes has sadly died.
Javier Ferrán, chairman, 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 potential that others may have overlooked. This is one of many reasons why he was beloved by our employees, past and present.”
Ferrán explained: “Ivan’s energy and his commitment to diversity created a truly inclusive business and enabled Diageo to have a positive impact on the communities we serve. His passion for our brands was second-to-none and in his heart, he remained the Johnnie Walker marketer from his early days. The desire to build the world’s best brands never left him. We are truly privileged to have had the opportunity to work alongside such a thoughtful and passionate colleague and friend – a true gentleman. He has built an extraordinary legacy.”
Menezes leaves behind him, his wife, Shibani and his two children, Nikhil and Rohini along with many friends from across all corners of the industry.
Ferrán added: “On behalf of the board, executive committee and all our employees, we extend our deepest sympathies to them.”
Debra Crew, who was due to take on the role of CEO at the end of its financial year, has become interim CEO with immediate effect.
Menezes has been highly praised for his decade at the top of Diageo. Since he moved into the driving seat in 2013, the company’s shareholders have enjoyed a handsome 127% return of their investment compared to the FTSE100’s dismal 17% and even today Diageo is responsible for £1 in every £10 of the UK’s food and drink exports.
Menezes adopted and refined the strategy of his predecessor, Paul Walsh, making Diageo what was known to be the pre-eminent producer at the top end of the global spirits market. Additionally, he enhanced its reputation in beer through Guinness and East African Breweries as well as made strides to relentlessly premiumise the company’s portfolio, broadening it with acquisitions such as Don Julio and Casamigos in Tequila and niche additions such as Don Papa rum.
Admist the fraud by Vijay Mallya over the purchase of United Spirits, Menezes has made what is now Diageo’s Indian subsidiary a more dynamic operation by selling off a batch of commodity brands, removing Diageo from the low margin wine market and sold off peripheral interests such as the prestigious Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire.
In China, where Diageo is a player in the all-important baijiu market via its 60% stake in Sichuan Shuijingfang, under Menezes’ reign, Diageo built a distillery to produce whisky for the Chinese market along with Yanghe, the third largest producer of baijiu.
In many ways Menezes has relentlessly focused his efforts where he has seen proeperity. For instance, with the all-important US market, which accounts for more than a third of Diageo’s net sales and about 40% of its profits.
It illustrates great expertise to have been able to show that, despite the chaos caused during the pandemic, by last Christmas Diageo’s global business was still 36% larger than it was in 2019.
Indeed, Menezes’ achievements are many. Diageo has prospered under his guidance. He will be sorely missed.