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‘Incredibly Sad Day’: Diageo CEO Sir Ivan Menezes Dies at 63 After Illness

Ivan Menezes

Sir Ivan Menezes, Diageo CEO, passed away. The company announced it in a press release on June 7. (Photo: Diageo)

Diageo CEO Sir Ivan Menezes has died after a “brief illness,” the liquor giant announced in a news release Wednesday.

“This is an incredibly sad day. Ivan was undoubtedly one of the finest leaders of his generation,” Chairman Javier Ferrán said.

Menezes was there during Diageo’s inception in 1997 and worked with the company for over 25 years. Prior to working at Diageo, Menezes was the strategy director for Guinness.

He became Diageo’s global marketing director in 1998 and was responsible for the Johnnie Walker “Keep Walking” Campaign.

Menezes subsequently held multiple senior positions at Diageo, including chief operating officer; president of Diageo North America; chairman, Diageo Asia Pacific; and chairman, Diageo Latin America and Caribbean.

He was appointed to the board as an executive director and served as CEO since July 2013, with a slated retirement date of June 30, 2023.

Diageo said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Menezes steered the company with a net sales value that was 36% larger than 2019.

In January, Menezes was knighted for services to business and equality, more specifically in relation to the Scotch whisky industry and community in Islay, Scotland.

The company gave thanks to Menezes for his contributions, especially within the categories of diversity and inclusion. In 2008, Diageo had no women on the company’s executive committee, and a majority of those changes were attributed to Menezes’s leadership.

In the news release, Diageo stated that over half of the people on Diageo’s Executive Committee are women, including Menezes’ successor as CEO, Debra Crew, who Diageo announced as interim CEO on Monday.

“Ivan’s energy and his commitment to diversity created a truly inclusive business and enabled Diageo to have a positive impact on the communities we serve,” Ferrán said. “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.”

Menezes sought treatment for a medical condition, and his recovery suffered some complications. He went into emergency surgery for a stomach ulcer over the weekend of June 3. He succumbed to the illness a few days later.

“We are truly privileged to have had the opportunity to work alongside such a thoughtful and passionate colleague and friend — a true gentleman. He has built an extraordinary legacy.” Ferrán concluded.

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Cynthia Mersten is a writer/editor for Whiskey Raiders and has worked in the Beverage Industry for eight years. She started her career in wine and spirits distribution and sold brands like Four Roses, High West and Compass Box to a variety of bars and restaurants in the city she calls home: Los Angeles. Cynthia is a lover of all things related to wine, spirits and story and holds a BA from UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television. Besides writing, her favorite pastimes are photography and watching movies with her husband.