Sir Ivan Menezes, who led global beverage group Diageo for a decade, has died at the age of 63 after a short illness.
After taking the top job in 2013, Menezes retooled Diageo’s portfolio to focus on high-growth premium spirits and subsequently guided the FTSE 100 group through the disruption of the pandemic.
He also completed a series of high-profile acquisitions, including a $1 billion deal to buy George Clooney’s Casamigos tequila in 2017.
“This is an incredibly sad day. Ivan was undoubtedly one of the best leaders of his generation,” said Diageo president Javier Ferrán on Wednesday.
“We are truly privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such a thoughtful and passionate colleague and friend – a true gentleman.”
Menezes was due to step down at the end of this month, but Diageo announced on Monday that his successor, Debra Crew, would start immediately. Menezes had been treated in hospital for medical conditions, including an ulcer. The company said it suffered a setback last weekend.
Born in India, Menezes has been with Diageo since it was founded in 1997 through the merger of Grand Metropolitan and Guinness, where he had been director of strategy.
He was tasked with overseeing the merger and went on to hold a series of senior positions, including president of North America and chief operating officer, before being promoted to senior management.
Bernstein analyst Trevor Stirling, who worked with Menezes at Guinness, said Menezes had made Diageo “much more consumer-focused.” “By purchasing Casamigos and Don Julio, he made Diageo the number one player in tequila worldwide.”
During his tenure, Menezes, who is a dual American and British national, invested heavily in Scotch whisky, reopened two historic distilleries in Brora and Port Ellen and a Johnnie Walker visitor experience in Edinburgh.