Sir Ivan Menezes, who led global drinks group Diageo for a decade, has died aged 63 after a brief illness.
After taking the top job in 2013, Menezes overhauled Diageo’s portfolio to focus on fast-growing premium spirits and then steered the FTSE 100 group through the disruption of the pandemic.
He also carried out a string of high-profile acquisitions, including a $1bn deal to buy George Clooney’s Casamigos tequila in 2017.
“This is an incredibly sad day. Ivan was undoubtedly one of the finest leaders of his generation,” Diageo chair Javier Ferrán said on Wednesday.
“We are truly privileged to have had the opportunity to work alongside such a thoughtful and passionate colleague and friend — a true gentleman.”
Menezes was due to step down at the end of this month, but on Monday Diageo said his successor, Debra Crew, would start the role immediately. Menezes had been in hospital being treated for medical conditions including a stomach ulcer. The company said he had suffered a setback last weekend.
Born in India, Menezes had been with Diageo since it was formed in 1997 through the merger of Grand Metropolitan and Guinness, where he had been director of strategy.
He was charged with overseeing the merger, and went on to hold a series of senior roles, including president of North America and chief operating officer, before his promotion to the top job.
Trevor Stirling, analyst at Bernstein, who worked with Menezes at Guinness, said that Menezes had made Diageo “a lot more consumer oriented”. “Through the purchase of Casamigos and Don Julio, he made Diageo the number one player in tequila globally.”
During his tenure, Menezes, who held dual US and UK citizenship, invested heavily in Scotch whisky, reopening two historic distilleries in Brora and Port Ellen and a Johnnie Walker visitor experience in Edinburgh.