In sad news for the distilled spirits industry Diageo CEO Ivan Manuel Menezes passed away on Wednesday June 7, 2023 at the age of 63 following a brief illness, with his family at his side. Menezes was born on 10 July 1959, in Pune, India. He held UK and US citizenship, and Overseas Citizenship for India.
Menezes joined Diageo at its creation in 1997 just months before the merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan, one of the alcohol trade’s biggest deals. He had been the Strategy Director for Guinness plc. When Diageo was subsequently created through the merger, Menezes was appointed Group Integration Director tasked with integrating this ‘merger of equals’. He’s held many senior positions in a career spanning over 25 years at the company.
He became Global Marketing Director, UDV, in 1998 and was responsible for developing the now iconic, ‘Keep Walking’ campaign for Johnnie Walker. He subsequently held several senior positions in Diageo including Chief Operating Officer; President, Diageo North America; Chairman, Diageo Asia Pacific; and Chairman, Diageo Latin America and Caribbean.
Menezes was 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.
A Statement from Diageo Chairman Javier Ferrán
Diageo Chairman Javier Ferrán released the following statement about the passing of Sir Ivan Menezes.
“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.
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.
Ivan leaves behind many friends and a beloved family, and our thoughts are particularly with his wife, Shibani and his two children, Nikhil and Rohini. On behalf of the Board, Executive Committee and all our employees, we extend our deepest sympathies to them.”
Menezes Career Accomplishments
During his decade as CEO, Menezes oversaw an outstanding period of change, growth and high performance. Diageo made huge strides towards his ambition that Diageo should become one of the best performing, most trusted and respected companies in the world.
Menezes was 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.
Over 40% of Diageo’s senior leadership positions globally are held by women, while 37% are ethnically diverse, well on the way to his target to achieve gender parity in senior leadership and 45% of our leadership to be ethnically diverse by 2025.
During the past decade, Diageo’s total shareholder returns have strongly outperformed the FTSE100, and the Company has continued its progressive policy to increase dividends every year.
Menezes is a Non-Executive Director of Tapestry Inc.; Chairman of the Council of The Scotch Whisky Association; and a member of the Global Advisory Board at Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.
Knighthood: His Crowning Achievement – Sir Ivan Menezes
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In January 2023, Menezes was awarded a Knighthood for services to Business and to Equality in His Majesty The King’s 2023 New Year Honours List.
Diageo Board Appoints Debra Crew Interim CEO
Earlier in the week on June 5, Diageo announced it had appointed Debra Crew as interim CEO while Menezes was in the hospital receiving treatment for medical conditions including a stomach ulcer. Over the weekend, we learned that Ivan’s recovery suffered a significant setback due to complications, which followed emergency surgery on the ulcer.
As a result of these developments, the Board of Directors appointed Debra Crew Interim Chief Executive Officer with immediate effect, ahead of her appointment as Chief Executive Officer and joining the Board as an executive director on 1 July 2023.
Now selling over 200 brands in more than 180 markets including the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky brand (Johnnie Walker), the world’s most celebrated gin (Tanqueray), the world’s best-selling premium distilled vodka (Smirnoff), the world-leading iconic stout (Guinness), and the world’s best-selling cream liqueur (Baileys). Today, Diageo is the number one company by net sales value in Scotch whisky, vodka, gin, rum, Canadian whisky, liqueurs, and also tequila, a category in which only eight years ago the company had no substantive position.
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Scotch Whisky Association Statement about Menezes
A statement from Mark Kent, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, on the passing of Diageo CEO and SWA Chair Sir Ivan Menezes
“Sir Ivan was a towering figure in Scotch Whisky, who not only helped to shape the global success of the industry but laid the foundation for future generations.
“It is too soon to encapsulate fully the impact he had on the Scotch Whisky industry, that time will come later. But it is as deep and long lasting as the affection in which he was held by those who knew him best. Aside from being a consummate professional, one of the most successful business leaders of his generation, he was a warm and caring human being.
“Through our grief, that legacy will sustain us, encourage us to follow the example he set, and enable us to remember fondly the time we had with him.
“The thoughts of the SWA, and the whole Scotch Whisky family, are with Ivan’s loved ones and our colleagues at Diageo at this difficult time.”
DISCUS Statement on the Passing of Menezes
Statement on behalf of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and Responsibility.org on the Passing of Ivan Menezes, CEO of Diageo
Chris Swonger, President and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and Responsibility.org stated, “It is with deep sadness and profound respect that we mourn the sudden passing of Sir Ivan Menezes, CEO of Diageo. Ivan was an exceptional leader whose contributions to the spirits industry were immeasurable. His visionary approach, unwavering commitment to responsibility, and dedication to building some of the world’s best brands will forever be remembered.
Ivan’s passion for the spirits industry will be greatly missed. Under his guidance on the DISCUS board, the spirits industry experienced tremendous achievements, witnessing remarkable growth, while also prioritizing sustainability and diversity initiatives to enhance the entire spirits sector. Ivan’s tireless dedication to fostering inclusivity and his commitment to consumers played a pivotal role in driving the industry forward.
On behalf of the Distilled Spirits Council, Responsibility.org and our members, we extend our deepest condolences to Ivan’s family, loved ones and colleagues as they navigate this profound loss.”