LONDON (AP) — Ivan Menezes, one of the most influential figures in the global drinks industry over the past few decades and who was widely admired for his commitment to diversity, has died following a short illness. He was 63.
Menezes was until earlier this week chief executive of Diageo, the drinks giant that owns popular brands such as Johnnie Walker whisky, Smirnoff vodka and Guinness.
In a statement Wednesday, Diageo confirmed Menezes’ death, two days after announcing that he was stepping down after developing complications while recovering from emergency surgery on an ulcer.
Menezes was due to step down as chief executive at the end of the month after 10 years at the helm of the company, which has a market value on the London Stock Exchange of 75 billion pounds ($93 billion). Diageo also accounts for around 10% of the U.K.’s total food and drinks exports.
“Ivan was undoubtedly one of the finest leaders of his generation,” said chairman Javier Ferran. “Ivan was there at the creation of Diageo and over 25 years, shaped Diageo to become one of the best-performing, most trusted and respected consumer companies.”
Menezes was born in 1959 in Pune, India. He held British and U.S. citizenship, as well as overseas citizenship for the country of his birth.
He was knighted in January in King Charles III’s first New Years honors list for services to business and to equality. Under his leadership, Diageo took great strides in diversifying its leadership — it said more than 40% of Diageo’s senior leadership positions globally are held by women, while 37% are ethnically diverse.
“Aside from being a consummate professional, one of the most successful business leaders of his generation, he was a warm and caring human being,” said Mark Kent, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, the lobby group that Menezes also chaired.
Menezes is survived by his wife, Shibani, and his two children, Nikhil and Rohini.