Debra Crew, 52, who began her career as a U.S. Army intelligence officer, will become the chief executive officer of Diageo, plc. on July 1, succeeding Sir Ivan Menezes, who has decided to retire as CEO and to leave the Diageo board. Crew will succeed Menezes on the Diageo board.
She currently is the Chief Operating Officer of Diageo in October 2022, a position she was appointed to after leading Diageo North America and Global Supply from July 2020. She led Diageo's largest market to a 14% sales gain in fiscal 2022 after a 20% organic net sales growth the prior year. She joined Diageo's board as a Non-Executive Director in April 2019, but stepped down from the board when appointed President North America in July 2020.
Crew is the former President and CEO of Reynolds American, Inc., where she delivered strong performance growth before the company’s acquisition, having previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer, and President and Chief Commercial Officer. Prior to that, Debra spent five years at PepsiCo, where she served as President, North America Nutrition; President, PepsiCo Americas Beverages; and President, Western Europe Region. Prior to PepsiCo, Debra held positions with Kraft Foods, Nestlé S.A. and Mars, Inc.
When Menezes hands the keys to the CEO suite to Crew on June 30, she will inherit a company that was in poor shape when Menezes took over and now is one of the best performing consumer products companies in the world selling more than 200 brands in 180 countries. It is he No. 1 company by net sales value in Scotch whisky, vodka, gin, rum, Canadian whisky, liqueurs, and also tequila1, a category in which only eight years ago the company had no substantive position. It is the sixth largest company on the FTSE 100. And in December 2022, Guinness became the number one beer in the on-trade in Great Britain for the first time.
Led by Menezes, Diageo developed a leadership position in sustainability, becoming one of the top 1% of companies globally to achieve a “Double A” rating for Water Security and Climate Change from CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), as well as a particularly strong stance on inclusion and diversity, with the company ranked No. 1 in the UK, and No. 2 globally, in Equileap’s 2023 Gender Equality Report.
With Crew’s appointment as Chief Executive Officer, women will make up more than 50% of Diageo’s Executive Committee from 1 July 2023. 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. In January 2023, Ivan was awarded a Knighthood for services to Business and to Equality in The King’s 2023 New Year Honours List.
Crew's leadership skills will be tested almost immediately. She will be navigating an uncertain economic outlook and will face the dilemma of how much to raise prices to offset rising costs without leading consumers to cut back purchases of the company's products, or, even worse, switch to another firm's brand. Some data has indicated a slowdown in growth for pricier spirits and wines in the face of economic challenges. Also, the company reported worse-than-expected sales growth for Diageo North America.