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Menezes Now Viewed As Heir Apparent At Diageo; Schwartz Will Head Diageo North America

February 29, 2012

With his promotion today to the new position of global chief operating officer at Diageo, effective March 1, Ivan Menezes is now widely viewed as the top internal candidate to succeed the drinks giant’s current CEO, Paul Walsh, who has been at the helm for over a decade. With Menezes moving to the global COO position, Diageo USA president Larry Schwartz will assume Menezes’s role of president at Diageo North America.

In addition to heading up operations in North America, Menezes’s current titles include chairman of Diageo Asia Pacific and Diageo Latin America & Caribbean. After joining Diageo through its Guinness subsidiary in 1997, Menezes became president of Diageo North America in 2004.

Schwartz now assumes responsibility for Diageo’s largest operating unit. The company’s North America region accounted for one-third of global net sales in the six months through December. Schwartz joined Diageo in 2001 from The Seagram Co. Ltd., after Diageo and Pernod Ricard jointly acquired Seagram that same year. He became president of Diageo USA in September 2008. Schwartz, along with Nick Blazquez (president Africa), Gilbert Ghostine (president Asia Pacific), Randy Millian (president Latin America & Caribbean) and Andrew Morgan (president Europe), will report to Menezes.

Menezes will report to Walsh, who himself was named COO of Diageo in January 2000, ascending to become CEO in September of that year. Rumors have swirled in recent months that Walsh may be planning his departure, possibly to become chairman of consumer goods titan Unilever, where he already sits on the board. Charlie Mills, an analyst at Diageo’s house broker Credit Suisse, told Reuters today, “We assume this means a 12-18 month opportunity to assess the internal candidate before he is presumably benchmarked against external candidates for the top job some time next year.”

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