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In remembrance of Sir Ivan Menezes

Sir Ivan Menezes would be embarrassed by the tributes pouring into Diageo’s offices today following his tragic early death, just three weeks before a planned and well-deserved retirement. Here, db city editor Ron Emler remembers him.

A private man, he was ever at pains to point out that the group’s unbroken progress over the past 10 years as the world’s most successful premium beverage alcohol group was the result of a combined effort. He just had the privilege of heading a talented team.

Citing that very reason earlier this year, he politely declined a request from the drinks business for an interview to mark his decade in the driving seat.

It was the company that mattered, not him.

Unfailingly courteous, he was ever on top of his brief, citing sometimes obscure market and brand facts based on a deep knowledge of the data.

At a presentation 18 months ago charting his path for Diageo up to 2030, the AV equipment failed temporarily. Unfazed, he continued his delivery saying: “it doesn’t matter. I know it by heart.”

Questions were treated with respect and he was always willing to provide as much detail and background as was prudent within the bounds of commercial confidentiality.

Driven by the desire to make Diageo one of the most admired global companies by consumers, customers, colleagues and rivals alike, insiders confirm that once he had set a course and provided the tools to achieve a goal, he expected 100% effort to achieve it.

He nurtured talent throughout the business and at Diageo’s central London HQ today, staff were much saddened, saying they had been “truly privileged” to work alongside (not for) Sir Ivan.

Apart from his undoubted legacy as a titan of the global drinks sector, he will be remembered for his ethos of promoting equality of opportunity and diversity.

The citation for his knighthood in the 2023 New Year’s Honours list recognised that passion along with his contribution to exports.

He would have been immensely proud that Diageo is now one of the very few global companies headed by two females, Debra Crew, who had already been announced as his successor, and Lavanya Chandrashekar, who became finance director two years ago.

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