Longtime Diageo executive Sir Ivan Menezes has passed away following a brief illness. The CEO, who worked with the company for 25 years, was 63.

“This is an incredibly sad day. Ivan was undoubtedly one of the finest leaders of his generation,” Diageo Plc chairman Javier Ferrán said in a June 7 press release. “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.”

Menezes’ planned July 1 retirement was announced in late March, with chief operating officer Debra Crew set to take on the role of CEO. But earlier this week, the corporation shared that Crew would be stepping in earlier than expected amid “significant setbacks” in Menezes’ health.

Menezes joined the company in 1997 as Strategy Director for Guinness and later served as Group Integration Director, after a merger between Guinness and Grand Metropolitan created Diageo. He assumed the role of CEO in July 2013.

Menezes’ tenure at Diageo saw remarkable growth and development in over 180 markets spanning 200 brands. He oversaw the acquisitions of high-profile brands including Casamigos, Aviation, and Don Julio, and he’s also known for launching the Johnnie Walker “Keep Walking” campaign.

The executive, who held U.S. and U.K. citizenship and Overseas Citizenship for India, was one of the longest-serving CEOs in Britain’s history. Menezes’ impact was wide-reaching, both for the spirits corporation and the industry at large: He helped grow Diageo to a whopping 10 percent market share of the U.K.’s total food and drink exports. The corporation is now the number one company (by net sales) in several spirit categories, including Scotch, vodka, gin, rum, Canadian whisky, liqueurs, and tequila. In December 2022, Menezes announced that, for the first time, Guinness had achieved the title of top-selling beer by value in the U.K.

Menezes is survived by his wife, Shibani, and his two children.

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