Diageo CEO Sir Ivan Menezes has died, aged 63, with the drinks company paying tribute to “one of the finest leaders of his generation” who was driven by a “desire to build the world’s best brands”.
Menezes spent 10 years leading the drinks giant, which produces brands such as Guinness, Johnnie Walker and Baileys. He had been at Diageo since its formation in 1997 through the merger of Guinness plc and Grand Metropolitan.
Shortly after the merger, in 1998, Menezes became global marketing director and was responsible for developing the now famous ‘Keep Walking’ campaign for Johnnie Walker, which is still used by the brand today.
Paying tribute to him, Diageo chairman Javier Ferrán described a leader driven by creating and growing great brands.
“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,” Ferrán said.
Menezes had been due to retire from post at the end of this month; however, earlier this week Diageo had announced that Debra Crew would be taking over the role a month earlier than planned as Menezes underwent medical treatment. He passed away following a short illness, with family members by his side, the company said.
As CEO of the company, Menezes led Diageo to strong growth through its brands. He steered the company through the pandemic, and the company’s most recent net sales were 36% higher than 2019. Diageo is now the number one company by net sales value in Scotch whisky, vodka, gin, rum, Canadian whisky, liqueurs, and tequila. The company’s products account for 10% of the UK’s total food and drinks exports.
In its most recent financial year, Diageo’s net sales were £15.5bn, up 21.4% from the year prior. It generated profits of £4.4bn for the year.
Another achievement that the company says Menezes was “particularly proud” of was Guinness becoming the number one selling beer by value in the on-trade for the first time in December 2022.
Outside of Diageo’s commercial success, the company also praised him for advocating for both women and ethnic minorities in business. In 2008, there were no women on Diageo’s Executive Committee, while today, over half are women.
At the beginning of this year, Menezes was awarded a knighthood for his services to business and equality in the King’s New Year’s Honours list.
The company also made significant progress on its environmental commitments during Menezes’ time at the helm. It halved its total carbon outputs in absolute terms during his time in charge.
Before joining Diageo he worked across various marketing, sales and strategy roles for consumer goods business Whirlpool in Europe, management consulting firm Booz Allen & Hamilton in North America, and FMCG giant Nestlé in Asia.