Diageo appoints Debra Crew as interim boss after Sir Ivan Menezes develops complications following surgery
- Sir Ivan Menezes joined Diageo in 1997 when it was formed through a merger
- Diageo’s market cap has expanded by around £25bn during Menezes’s tenure
- Crew initially joined Diageo three years ago as its North American president
Debra Crew has been appointed boss of drinks giant Diageo on a provisional basis while Sir Ivan Menezes undergoes treatment in hospital.
Menezes, 63, was set to retire at the end of June, having spent a decade in charge of the Captain Morgan and Johnnie Walker owner, which he joined when it was formed in 1997 through a merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan.
But over the weekend, he experienced a ‘significant setback’ after developing complications following emergency surgery for a stomach ulcer, said Diageo.
Promotion: Debra Crew (pictured) has now been appointed chief executive of drinks giant Diageo while Sir Ivan Menezes undergoes treatment in hospital
He will remain on the company’s board until standing down on 30 June, but Crew has now been made interim chief executive with immediate effect.
‘Our thoughts are with our much-loved colleague, Ivan, and his family,’ the firm added. ‘Out of respect for Ivan and his family’s privacy, we will not be commenting further at this time.’
Menezes took over Diageo in 2013, succeeding Paul Walsh, who transformed the business into a global leader through expansion into emerging markets and a series of acquisitions.
The Indian-born executive has continued to build on that strategy, buying premium brands like tequila seller Casamigos, co-founded by actor George Clooney, rum maker Don Papa, and Ryan Reynolds-backed Aviation Gin.
Diageo now sells over 200 brands across at least 180 countries, and is the world’s biggest seller of Scotch and Canadian whisky.
During Menezes’s tenture, the company’s market capitalisation has grown by approximately £25billion despite the Covid-19 pandemic impacting trade in hospitality venues.
Crew’s appointment makes her the tenth female chief executive of a FTSE 100 company, alongside the likes of Amanda Blanc at Aviva, Dame Emma Walmsley at GSK, Severn Trent’s Liv Garfield and Jennie Daly of Taylor Wimpey.
After a stint as a US Army officer, she worked for food giants Kraft Foods, Nestlé and Mars, then spent five years at PepsiCo before running tobacco group Reynolds American until its acquisition by British American Tobacco.
She joined Diageo three years ago as president of its North American division, rising to become the firm’s chief operating officer last October, a position she held for only eight months.
Her promotion to the top position means women will represent over half of the firm’s board.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: ‘Spirits is a decent business to be in as they are cheap to make and typically have strong brand loyalty.
‘However, Crew needs to demonstrate she can make a good return from some of the pricey acquisitions of premium spirits by Diageo in recent years.
‘The company has focused on profitability, cash flow and growth in emerging markets under Menezes, and tapping into the growing middle class in the developing world makes sense. However, recent times have shown this exposes Diageo to volatility too.’
Diageo shares were flat on Monday morning, just 3p, or 0.01 per cent lower at 3,369.5p.