Scotch Whisky giant Diageo plc announced on Wednesday that Ivan Menezes, who held the CEO role at the world’s biggest spirits company for 10 years, has died after a brief illness.
Diageo had said on Monday the 63-year-old, who was set to retire at the end of this month, was in hospital receiving treatment for conditions including a stomach ulcer and his recovery “suffered a significant setback due to complications, which followed emergency surgery on the ulcer.”
The group’s new CEO Debra Crew has taken up the position a month earlier than expected. Diageo said on Monday that Crew would commence as interim chief executive with immediate effect, ahead of her planned July 1 start date in the permanent role.
In a stock exchange statement on Wednesday, Diageo said: “Following our announcement on 5 June 2023, it is with great sadness that Diageo announces that Sir Ivan Menezes has passed away following a brief illness, with his family at his side.”
Diageo chairman Javier Ferrán said: “This is an incredibly sad day. Ivan was undoubtedly one of the finest leaders of his generation.
“Ivan was there at the creation of Diageo and over 25 years, shaped Diageo to become one of the best performing, most trusted and respected consumer companies.
“I saw first-hand his steadfast commitment to our people and to creating a culture that enabled everyone to thrive.
“He invested his time and energy in people at every level of the company and saw potential that others may have overlooked. This is one of many reasons why he was beloved by our employees, past and present.
“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. 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.
“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.
“Ivan leaves behind many friends and a beloved family, and our thoughts are particularly with his wife, Shibani and his two children, Nikhil and Rohini. On behalf of the board, executive committee and all our employees, we extend our deepest sympathies to them.”
Diageo accounts for 10% of the UK’s total food and drinks exports.
Scotch Whisky Association CEO Mark Kent said: “Sir Ivan was a towering figure in Scotch Whisky, who not only helped to shape the global success of the industry but laid the foundation for future generations.
“It is too soon to encapsulate fully the impact he had on the Scotch Whisky industry, that time will come later. But it is as deep and long lasting as the affection in which he was held by those who knew him best.
“Aside from being a consummate professional, one of the most successful business leaders of his generation, he was a warm and caring human being.
“Through our grief, that legacy will sustain us, encourage us to follow the example he set, and enable us to remember fondly the time we had with him.
“The thoughts of the SWA, and the whole Scotch Whisky family, are with Ivan’s loved ones and our colleagues at Diageo at this difficult time.”