Diageo has promoted North American boss Ivan Menezes to chief operating officer.

The move establishes Menezes as the front-runner to take over as chief executive when the time comes for Paul Walsh to step aside.

As well as being president of the North American business, Menezes was chairman of the Guinness brewer’s Asia Pacific and Latin American divisions. Yesterday’s move adds Europe and Africa to his remit, while Larry Schwartz replaces him as president of the North American business, reporting to Menezes.

“Given our strong performance momentum and the scope and scale of our ambition, the Diageo board and I agree now is the right time to extend Ivan’s remit to embrace all of our markets globally,” said Walsh.

“Ivan has a track record of delivery throughout his eight-year leadership in North America and more recently in Asia Pacific and Latin America & Caribbean, and I am confident that Ivan can sustain and develop the performance momentum we demonstrated in our half-year results as he broadens his responsibilities.”

While Walsh is expected to remain in the top job for another 18 months, the move puts Menezes at the front of the queue of internal candidates to replace him.

Walsh previously worked as chief operating officer for nine months before stepping up to become chief executive in 2000.