The chief executive of Diageo has passed away, following a short illness.

The company said today that Ivan Menezes, who was due to retire this month, died with his family by his side. He was 63.

Earlier this week, the company said new chief executive Debra Crew would step into the role ahead of schedule, after they reported that Menezes had suffered complications relating to a stomach ulcer. 

Menezes, who spent 10 years in the top job, joined Diageo through the merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan in 1997.

Diageo chairman Javier Ferrán called him “one of the finest leaders of his generation”.

“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,” said Ferrán. “I saw first-hand his steadfast commitment to our people and to creating a culture that enabled everyone to thrive. He invested his time and energy in people at every level of the company and saw potential that others may have overlooked. This is one of many reasons why he was beloved by our employees, past and present.”

As part of his retirement announcement back in March, Diageo outlined several achievements during Menezes’ tenure, including “becoming one of the top 1% of companies globally to achieve a ‘Double A’ rating for water security and climate change” from CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), as well as a “strong stance on inclusion and diversity, with the company ranked number one in the UK, and number two globally, in Equileap’s 2023 Gender Equality Report”.

In January, Menezes was appointed Knight Bachelor in the New Year Honours list