Ivan Menezes, Diageo CEO Who Crafted Firm, Dies

Sir Ivan Menezes, CEO of Diageo for the past decade, died Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 64.

Menezes was present at the creation of Diageo plc, and over 25 years crafted Diageo to become "one of the best performing, most trusted and respected consumer companies," Javier Ferran, chairman, said.

It's a tribute to Menezes and to Diageo's board that his passing, while shocking to many, saw the stock close  virtually unchanged.  In New York at the close Wednesday, Diageo was down just 57 cents – that's 0.34% – to close at $168.86.  

One reason for the steady performance: Menezes had his successor in place.  Debra Crew had been promoted to Chief Operating Officer in October 2022 and on Monday (6/5) was named interim CEO. She had been scheduled to become CEO on July 1, following Menezes's retirement June 30.

Ivan Manuel Menezes was born July 10, 1959, in Pune, India. He studied economics and math at Delhi University, earned a postgraduate degree in management at the Indian Institute of Management.  He began his career at Nestle in India, left to do a further post graduate degree at the Kellogg School of Management. Upon graduating, he was hired as a consultant by Booz Allen Hamilton, then joined Whirlpool Corp. as vp-group marketing.

Menezes was working for Guinness when the storied beer maker merged with Grand Metropolitan to form Diageo.  Grand Metropolitan was primarily a hotel and catering company that acquired International Distillers & Vintners, which owned Justin & Brooks, Baileys Irish Cream, Gilbey's Gin and held the European and Commonwealth rights to Smirnoff Vodka.

Menezes had been the strategy director for Guinness.  Following the merger, he was group integration director, followed by a series of high-level executive jobs, including president, Diageo North America.  

He joined Diageo's board in July 2012, and was named CEO a year later.  He was known for his steadfast commitment to Diageo's employees, and, Ferron said, "saw potential that others may have overlooked." During his decade as CEO, Diageo "made huge strides toward his ambition that Diageo should become one of the best performing, most trusted and most respected companies in the world."

With more than 200 brands in 180 markets, Diageo is the No. 1 comapny by net sales value in Scotch whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, Canadian whisky, liqueurs and tequila, a category which the company hadn't a substantive position just eight years ago.  He was particularly proud to announce in December 2022 that Guinness was ranked No. 1 beer company by value in Great Britain to the on-trade.

After the pandemic, Diageo had a net sales value 36% larger than in 2019.

He was knighted by King Charles III in January for his contributions to business and equality.  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.  Almost half the executive committee is ethnically diverse.  

Over 40% of Diageo's senior leadership positions globally are held by women and 37% are ethnically diverse, making Diageo well on its way to meeting Menezes' target of gender parity in senior leadership and 45% of the executive committee to be ethnically diverse by 2025.

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