Ivan Menezes, who headed the wine giant, dies at 63

Ivan Menezes, who headed the wine giant, dies at 63

Ivan Menezes, who as chief executive of spirits corporation Diageo used his astute understanding of the drinking public to help grow the company into a global giant, died in London on June 7. He was 63 years old.

A spokesman for Diageo said the cause was complications from emergency surgery for a stomach ulcer.

Diageo is ubiquitous in the alcohol world, selling more than 200 brands in more than 180 countries, including Smirnoff vodka, Tanqueray gin, Johnnie Walker Scotch, Captain Morgan rum and Guinness beer. It has the largest global net sales in some spirits categories.

Mr. Menezes (pronounced muh-NAY-zess) was trained in marketing and closely studied consumer sentiment. To him, the spirits offer customers what he calls “accessible luxury”—a pretense of the good life even in a shaky economy.

In a 2005 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Menezes said of that particular restaurant, “The example I like to use is that if you’re an average New Yorker, a night at the Four Seasons Spending can be difficult.” “But you can walk into the Four Seasons bar and enjoy a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue Label on the rocks.”

Mr Menezes, who became chief executive in 2013, had been at Diageo since its inception. He was Guinness’ director of strategy in 1997, when the company merged with Grand Metropolitan plc, which owned Burger King and Pillsbury, forming a reportedly $33 billion conglomerate.

After the merger, he became the global marketing director of the company’s beverage division in 1998.

One of his first challenges was to attract Johnnie Walker to a new generation. Diageo’s market research found that it was not so much that young imbibes disliked the taste of blended Scotch, but rather that the traditional tartan image of the drink felt bleak.

In 1999 Mr Menezes was quoted in the Scottish newspaper The Scotsman as saying, “We are losing old drinkers by the bucketful, but only gaining new ones.” “By focusing on building brands and making our brands relevant to young consumers, we will all benefit.”

That year Mr. Menezes spent £100 million (about $224 million in today’s dollars) to revamp Johnnie Walker’s image with an international advertising campaign developed by the agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

The campaign introduced the slogan “Keep Moving” and featured three television commercials, one featuring actor Harvey Keitel. walked into a colosseum full of lions When he talked about overcoming stage fright; The other featured French funambulist Ramon Kelvink. slack line between buildings.

“With this campaign, we hope to create an emotional bond with the consumer through the universal realm of inspiring personal progress,” Mr. Menezes told Campaign Magazine.

A quarter of a century later, Johnnie Walker, one of the most popular Scotch brands on the planet, still uses the tagline “Keep Moving”. Diageo said the retail sales value of Johnnie Walker was expected to grow from about $5.1 billion in 2012 to more than $8 billion in 2022.

Under Mr. Menezes, Diageo expanded its tequila offerings, is trading its Bushmills Irish whiskey brand to Casa Cuervo in 2014 in exchange for full control of his Don Julio tequila brand and $408 million in cash. The company also bought Casamigos, the tequila brand created by George Clooney and two friends, Rande Gerber and Michael Meldman, in 2017 in a deal worth up to $1 billion. Tequila is now the company’s second biggest seller after Scotch.

As chief executive, Mr. Menezes removed a layer of regional management, facilitated communication between the global company and country-based businesses, and reduced its employee base from about 36,000 to about 28,000. She was credited with reducing Diageo’s carbon emissions and pushing for greater workforce diversity by adding more women at top levels. He had planned to retire this year; The new chief executive is Debra Crews.

She takes the helm as the company faces a recent lawsuit filed by Sean Combs, better known as rapper Diddy, who accused the company of racial bias in neglecting vodka and tequila brands that They are co-owned. Diageo denied Mr Combs’ allegations, saying in a statement that “we are confident the facts will show he has been treated fairly.”

Iván Manuel Menezes was born on July 10, 1959, in Pune, India to Nina and Manuel Menezes. His mother taught music and French; His father was the chairman of the Indian Railway Board.

After graduating from St. Mary’s High School in Mount Abu, India, Mr. Menezes earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi in 1979.

He then studied business policy and marketing at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and in 1981 took a job with Nestlé in New Delhi.

He moved to the United States in 1985 to study business administration at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, completing his master’s degree. He then took a job as a business and management consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton, based in Chicago and London.

Mr. Menezes was vice president of group marketing for Whirlpool in northern Italy from 1992 until his departure for Guinness in 1997.

He held several other positions at Diageo, including chief operating officer and president of the company’s North American operations, before succeeding Paul S. Walsh as chief executive.

He is survived by his wife, Shibani, with whom he lived in London; two brothers, Victor, former chairman and chief executive of Citibank, and Michael; a sister, Marissa; a daughter, Rohini Menezes; and a son, Nikhil.

Mr Menezes, who is a British and US citizen as well as an overseas citizen of India, was knighted by King Charles III in January for his services to business and equality.

When it came to his own tastes in beverages, Mr. Menezes preferred classics like Johnnie Walker Black and soda, or a pint of Guinness, though, as he revealed during an appearance on CNBC on St. Patrick’s Day in 2007. Said, sometimes one was not enough.

“What can I say about Guinness,” he said, “my favorite pint is always my next pint.”

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