It is with great sadness that we record the news of the sudden illness and premature passing of Sir Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive of Diageo Plc. on Wednesday 7th June. Our thoughts and heartfelt sympathies are with his wife Shibani and their two children. The news is particularly distressing as he was about to retire at the end of June after nearly 26 years service to the industry leader. This was the culmination of a highly successful career in strategy, global marketing and general management.
He first became known to the industry as strategy director of Guinness plc, by then the owners of United Distillers, and this led to the merger with Grand Metropolitan and IDV. His first operational role was as integration director bringing together two highly successful, but in many ways quite different but complementary companies. Despite their being competitors, he was able to lead the transition to a single company, UDV, in a merger of equals within a year of the announcement, a remarkable achievement. Initially a leading food and drink company, its parent, Diageo, steadily moved to become a business totally focussed on premium drinks. Ivan was the first Global Marketing Director and then progressed through a series of increasingly senior positions in Asia, Latin America and Caribbean, and North America to become Chief Operating Officer, then Chief Executive in succession to Liveryman Paul Walsh in 2013.
His ten years as leader was characterised by tremendous growth in the company value through brand development and targeted acquisitions; as important was the development of the company as a trusted and respected proponent of good corporate practice in environment, society and governance issues, gender equality and diversity. The Board was transformed to have a majority of women and a diverse array of ethnic backgrounds. Personally, he was born in India where his father was chairman of the Railway Board and consequently Ivan held British, US and Overseas Indian citizenships. It perhaps explains his enthusiasm for Scotch Whisky and especially his beloved Johnnie Walker! The renaissance of this famous brand started under his leadership with the Keep Walking campaign launched in 1998.
As a livery we benefited enormously from the support Diageo provided as our first corporate member and their very generous donation to the One of One Auction which helped to multiply our Livery giving by tenfold. Our investment fund was founded by a large donation under the Macdonald Buchanan brand from the DCL, an antecedent of Diageo, in 1955. On a personal note having reported to him in the first days of the new company he was a pleasure to work with; he was very determined and set high standards but was approachable, friendly and always ready to hear a good proposal, provide advice or act as a mentor. He was perhaps at his most relaxed and best company at the Keepers of the Quaich events in Scotland where he was an enthusiastic and regular attendee. His former colleagues and friends will feel acutely the loss of an exemplary industry leader who did much for them, their company and the industry as a whole. In hindsight it is very fortunate and a comfort to his family, that his Knighthood was conferred earlier this year when he had the opportunity to know the esteem in which he was held and be personally rewarded for the enormous contribution he had made.
Past Master 2016-17