Diageo appoints Debra Crew as CEO as Ivan Menezes sets retirement date

By Kristiane Sherry |

Outgoing Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes (R) will be replaced by current COO Debra Crew

Global drinks giant Diageo has announced the retirement of its CEO Ivan Menezes after 10 years in post, with current Chief Operating Officer Debra Crew named as his replacement.

Crew, who will also join the Diageo board as Menezes steps back, will take over as CEO from 1 July 2023.

One of the UK’s longest serving FTSE chief executives, Menezes joined Diageo in 1997 through the merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan. Since then, he has held a number of senior positions including President of Diageo North America and global Chief Operating Officer. 

During his tenure, Menezes grew the business to become the number one company by net sales across Scotch whisky, vodka, gin, rum, Canadian whisky, liqueurs and Tequila. The business had no significant business in the latter eight years ago. 

Today, Diageo is present in over 180 markets and has a portfolio of more than 200 brands. In the UK it accounts for 10% of the country’s total food and drink exports.

Diageo tops UK gender equality list

Menezes has also led a focus on environmental and social responsibility. Under his leadership, Diageo became one of the top 1% of companies globally to obtain a Double A rating for Water Security and Climate Change from global disclosure system CDP.

Diageo is ranked number one in the UK and two globally in Equileap’s 2023 Gender Equality Report.

Crew has worked with Diageo since 2019 when she joined as a non-exec director 

With Crew’s appointment, women will account for more than 50% of Diageo’s Executive Committee. Currently 47% of the Committee are from an ethnically diverse background.

Over the past decade, Diageo says its total shareholder returns have “strongly outperformed” the FTSE100, and it has implemented a policy of increasing dividends each year.

In January 2023, Menezes received a Knighthood for his services to business and equality.

Prior to being named Chief Operating Officer in 2022, Crew held the rose of President, Diageo North America and Global Supply, where she led the company’s largest market to 14% organic net sales growth, building on 20% gains the prior year.

Crew first joined Diageo in 2019 as a non-executive director, a position she held until she was appointed President, Diageo North America in July 2020.

Before she joined Diageo she was President and CEO of tobacco firm Reynolds American, and has held senior roles at PepsiCo, Mondēlez and Nestlé. She currently serves on the board of Stanley Black & Decker.

Crew graduated from the University of Denver and holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She also previously served as an officer in the US Army.

Menezes made ‘significant’ sustainability progress

“The Board is enormously grateful for Ivan’s contribution over the past decade,” said Javier Ferrán, Diageo Chairman. 

“Under his stewardship, Diageo has consistently delivered a truly impressive performance to become one of the most respected businesses in the world. 

Ferrán: Menezes leaves Diageo ‘extremely well positioned’ for future growth

“Ivan has transformed Diageo’s global footprint, brand portfolio and strategic focus, positioning our business as a clear leader in premium drinks. 

“At the same time as delivering consistent shareholder returns, Ivan has nurtured a diverse and talented global workforce and made significant progress on the most material sustainability issues facing our business. 

“Ivan leaves Diageo extremely well positioned for future growth, and we thank him again for everything he has helped us to achieve.

“The Board has diligently planned for Ivan’s successor, and we are delighted to have appointed a leader of Debra’s calibre to the role. Debra has been a highly valued member of Diageo’s leadership team in recent years with an impressive track record of delivery both at Diageo and across other global consumer goods companies. 

“She has deep consumer industry expertise as well as proven strategic capabilities, strong operational performance and a clear ability to build and lead teams. I have no doubt that Diageo is in the right hands for the next phase of its growth.”

Menezes grew Diageo to become the number one supplier by net sales across Scotch whisky, vodka, rum and more.

Menezes added: “It has been an enormous honour leading Diageo over the past decade. I am extremely proud of what we have achieved during that time, and I would like to thank my 28,000 talented colleagues around the world for all of their hard work, creativity and passion. 

“I would also like to thank the Board for their encouragement, challenge and support over the years.

“I am delighted to be handing over the reins to Debra. In the time that we have worked together, I have been consistently impressed with her passion for growth and for building high performing teams. 

“I am confident that under Debra’s leadership, and with our extraordinary portfolio of brands and culture, Diageo will go on to deliver our long-term performance ambition.”

Crew commented: “I am delighted to be appointed Chief Executive Officer of Diageo. Ivan leaves Diageo in a very strong position for future growth and I look forward to working with our teams around the world to capture the opportunities ahead.

“I am focused on continuing Diageo’s extraordinary track record of building world-leading brands and enhancing our reputation as one of the most responsible businesses in what I believe to be the most exciting consumer products category. 

“It is an incredible privilege to be leading Diageo through the next phase of its development.”

Last year, Diageo grew its Global Travel team, appointing Andrew Cowan as Managing Director, with John O’Keeffe named President, Asia Pacific and Global Travel.

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