Guinness maker Diageo appoints its first female CEO

Debra Crew to succeed the booze giant’s longtime chief Ivan Menezes who is retiring

Diageo PLC named Debra Crew as its next chief executive, tapping an internal candidate to succeed longstanding leader Ivan Menezes at the helm of the alcoholic beverage company.

The London-based maker of Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky, Guinness stout and Smirnoff vodka said Tuesday that Ms. Crew, currently Diageo’s chief operating officer, would take over from Mr. Menezes on July 1. In becoming CEO, she adds to the handful of women that lead one of Britain’s biggest companies.

Diageo faces an uncertain economic outlook and, like other consumer products companies, the dilemma of how much to raise prices by to offset rising costs without putting off consumers.

Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes

Ivan Menezes, is retiring as CEO of Diageo. Here he speaks to guests during the annual Reuters IMPACT summit in London, Britain October 3, 2022. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska (Reuters Photos)

Mr. Menezes, who joined the company in 1997, is credited with growing Diageo significantly since he became CEO in July 2013, with the liquor maker now selling around 200 brands in more than 180 markets. During his tenure, the company has worked to boost its exposure to higher-end spirits brands as drinkers have shown a propensity to pay up for pricier alcohol. That has particularly been the case with tequila, where Diageo owns the Casamigos and Don Julio brands.

THE AVERAGE BAR TAB ON ST PATTY'S DAY

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DEO DIAGEO PLC 142.40 -0.55 -0.38%

One challenge now facing Ms. Crew is ensuring drinkers continue to splash out on Diageo’s more expensive lineup in the tougher economic environment. Some data has pointed to a slowdown in growth for costlier spirits and wine as shoppers look to economize.

Diageo also faces a challenge in North America, its largest market, where the company recently reported worse-than-expected first-half sales growth and gave a cautious outlook.

Shelf displaying Johnnie Walker

Bottles of Johnnie Walker whisky, a brand of Diageo, are seen for sale in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly (Reuters Photos)

Ms. Crew joined Diageo as a nonexecutive director in April 2019, before stepping down from the board the following year to lead the company’s business in North America, its largest market. She was promoted to chief operating officer in October 2022.

BEER CUSTOMERS REMAIN LOYAL DESPITE RISING PRICES, EXPERT SAYS

Diageo Chairman Javier Ferrán said Ms. Crew had been a highly valued member of the company’s leadership team in recent years with a record of delivery at both Diageo and other global consumer goods companies.

A glass of Guinness on a table

Before joining the booze giant, Ms. Crew previously served as CEO of Reynolds American, Inc., held various senior roles at PepsiCo, Inc. and before that had stints at Kraft Foods, Nestle SA and Mars Inc.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
PEP PEPSICO INC. 182.19 -0.92 -0.50%
KHC THE KRAFT HEINZ CO. 36.00 -0.07 -0.19%

Despite being widely anticipated, the retirement of Mr. Menezes is a loss for Diageo given his successful tenure, RBC Capital Markets analysts James Edwardes Jones and Emma Letheren said. "We think Diageo was in poor shape when Ivan took over; now it’s one of the most impressive companies we cover," they said.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX BUSINESS APP

Shares in Diageo slipped about 0.6% in early trading in London.