(Bloomberg) -- Ivan Menezes, the former Diageo Plc chief executive officer and one of the most respected bosses among the UK’s FTSE 100 companies, has died after a brief illness. He was 63.

The longtime chief of the world’s biggest spirits maker had been hospitalized and was receiving treatment for conditions including a stomach ulcer. The company earlier this week appointed Debra Crew as interim CEO, several weeks before she was set to take over the role.

India-born Menezes joined Diageo at its creation in 1997 and transformed it into the world’s biggest premium drinks company. The maker of Johnnie Walker whisky says it accounts for 10% of the UK’s total food and drinks exports.

“This is an incredibly sad day,” Chairman Javier Ferrán said in a statement Wednesday. “Ivan was undoubtedly one of the finest leaders of his generation.”

At the weekend, Menezes’ recovery suffered a significant setback due to complications, which followed emergency surgery on an ulcer. He was due to retire on June 30.

Since Menezes became Diageo’s CEO in July 2013, the maker of Tanqueray gin has outperformed the FTSE 100, capitalizing on the shift from beer and wine into spirits.

Despite bars and restaurants closing due to Covid-19, Diageo came through the pandemic with net sales 36% higher than in 2019.

In December 2022 its Irish brand Guinness was ranked the number one selling beer by value for the first time in Britain’s bars and restaurants.

Diageo was formed in 1997 through the merger of Guinness Plc and Grand Metropolitan, but the history of some of its brands dates as far back as the 17th century, with the first record of the Haig family in Scotland, who were whisky distillers.

Arthur Guinness began to brew ale in Dublin in 1759, while Johnnie Walker dates back to 1820.

Menezes was awarded a knighthood for services to business and equality in the 2023 New Year honors list. His route to the top of Diageo included stints as head of North America and group chief operating officer.

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