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Indian American Ivan Menezes, Chief of Diageo, Maker of Johnnie Walker, Remembered as One of Britain’s Most Respected CEOs

Indian American Ivan Menezes, Chief of Diageo, Maker of Johnnie Walker, Remembered as One of Britain’s Most Respected CEOs

  • The Pune, India-born 63-year-old, who held British and American citizenship, was set to retire at the end of the month, died following a brief illness.

Ivan Menezes, chief executive officer of the world’s biggest spirits company Diageo, has died following a brief illness, the company that makes Guinness and Johnnie Walker announced on June 7. The Pune, India-born 63-year-old, who held UK and U.S. citizenship, was set to retire at the end of the month, the company said. Earlier this week, Menezes was hospitalized for conditions including a stomach ulcer. He is survived by his wife, Shibani, and his two children, Nikhil and Rohini.

Described by Diageo chairman Javier Ferrán as “undoubtedly one of the finest leaders of his generation,” Menezes joined Diageo at its creation in 1997 and held many senior positions in a career spanning over 25 years at the company. He became Global Marketing Director, UDV, in 1998 and was responsible for developing the now iconic, ‘Keep Walking’ campaign for Johnnie Walker. He subsequently held several senior positions in Diageo including Chief Operating Officer; president, Diageo North America; chairman, Diageo Asia Pacific; and chairman, Diageo Latin America and Caribbean. He was appointed to the board as an Executive Director of Diageo in July 2012 and served as Chief Executive Officer since July 2013. 

One of Britain’s longest-serving and most respected chief executives, Menezes is credited for “transforming Diageo into the world’s leading premium drinks company and which accounts for 10% of the UK’s total food and drinks exports,” the company said. He was an inspirational champion for both women and ethnic minorities in business,” the company added. During the Covid-19 pandemic, under Menezes’ leadership Diageo produced “more than 10 million bottles of hand sanitizer for healthcare workers around the world, including the NHS.” He also announced, “the $100 million Raising the Bar program to help pubs and bars around the world reopen their doors safely again, providing PPE, sanitation, equipment for safer outdoor socializing spaces and staff training.”

Beyond Diageo, he was chairman of ‘Movement to Work’ between 2017 and 2020, a UK voluntary collaboration of businesses committed to tackling youth unemployment, in partnership with government, unions, and charities, delivering 100,000 structured work placements for young people in the UK, with over 55% of participants securing permanent jobs. He had a long involvement with the Pratham charity as an ongoing donor. He was a non-executive director of Tapestry Inc.; chairman of the Council of The Scotch Whisky Association; and a member of the Global Advisory Board at Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Prior to his career with Diageo, he worked across a variety of sales, marketing and strategy roles for Whirlpool in Europe, Booz Allen & Hamilton in North America, and Nestlé in Asia. In January 2023, Ivan was awarded a Knighthood for services to Business and to Equality in His Majesty The King’s 2023 New Year Honors List.

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