Diageo CFO Mikells to Leave; North America Finance Chief to Take Over
By Nina Trentmann
Diageo PLC named the finance chief of its largest and most
profitable business as its next chief financial officer, succeeding
Kathryn Mikells, who plans to leave the company at the end of
The London-based maker of Johnnie Walker scotch, Guinness stout
and Smirnoff vodka Thursday said Lavanya Chandrashekar, who
currently oversees the finances of its North America business,
would take over from Ms. Mikells on July 1.
Ms. Chandrashekar joined Diageo in July 2018 from snack-food
giant Mondelez International Inc. and was given additional
responsibility for investor relations in October.
Ms. Mikells became Diageo's top finance executive in November
2015. She previously held CFO positions at printer maker Xerox
Corp., security systems company ADT Inc. and United Airlines
Holdings Inc., where she worked for over 16 years. She plans to
return to the U.S., where her family lives.
Diageo, which last year reported slumping sales in many markets
outside North America due to the pandemic, on Thursday lauded Ms.
Chandrashekar's record of improving operating margins and
productivity. During her four-and-a-half years at Mondelez, Ms.
Chandrashekar led the company's cost savings initiatives and
managed supply chains. Before Mondelez, Ms. Chandrashekar worked
for over 18 years at Procter & Gamble Co.
"She brings a breadth of international experience, has an
exceptional grasp of consumer products value creation and world
class experience of effective cost management," Ivan Menezes,
Diageo's chief executive, said in a statement.
Diageo said Ms. Chandrashekar helped expand the North America
unit's shared services platform and develop commercial
partnerships. She was also credited with developing a new planning
model for the liquor maker.
Nearly all of Diageo's profit of GBP2.14 billion, worth roughly
$2.93 billion, came from North America in the fiscal year ended
June 30 as strong grocery store sales mitigated the impact of bar
closures in the region. The company reports its half-year results
on Jan. 28.
In her new role, Ms. Chandrashekar is expected to continue Ms.
Mikells's efforts to bring down expenses and boost efficiencies.
Ms. Mikells introduced zero-based budgeting, which requires
financial managers to start each year's budget from scratch, to
reduce packaging and other costs. She expanded the program to other
areas, including Diageo's real-estate group.
During Ms. Mikells's tenure, Diageo turned to a suite of tools
known as predictive analytics that gather and crunch large amounts
of data to identify trends and forecast customer demand and
Ms. Mikells oversaw the divestments of various brands and
several acquisitions, including those of Casamigos tequila in 2017
and Aviation American Gin last year. She also led investments to
increase Diageo's stake in its Chinese baijiu business and grow its
operations in Africa and Scotland.
Over the course of her career, one of Ms. Chandrashekar's
biggest challenges has been asking for help, she said at a CFO
conference in Boston in 2019. "I grew up in India, I've worked in
Europe...in the Middle East, and I have been in situations where I
found myself really wanting to prove that I can do it all," Ms.
Chandrashekar said at the time. "The biggest lesson that I have
learned is that I don't have to be Superwoman."
Write to Nina Trentmann at Nina.Trentmann@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 14, 2021 13:13 ET (18:13 GMT)
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