Manzoni is presently the chair of FTSE-listed multinational energy business SSE

Diageo has announced current non-executive director John Manzoni will become the new chair of its board next February, following the retirement of incumbent Javier Ferrán.

Manzoni, who joined the Diageo board in October 2020, is presently the chair of FTSE-listed multinational energy business SSE and a non-executive director of engineering and technology business KBR.

A senior civil servant from 2014 to 2020, Manzoni was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in 2020 for public service.

Previously he was a non-executive director of multinational brewing conglomerate SAB Miller from 2004 to 2015.

Manzoni brought “an outstanding track record of leadership within beverage alcohol and across a number of other complex and fast-changing sectors”, according to Diageo senior independent director Susan Kilsby.

His expertise would be “instrumental as Diageo continues to develop and grow its global business in the years ahead”, she added.

Ferrán, meanwhile, joined the Diageo board in July 2016 and was appointed its chair on 1 January 2017. He will retire next year in February.

Diageo CEO Debra Crew paid tribute to Ferrán’s contribution over his nine-year tenure on the Johnnie Walker maker’s board.

“Javier has been an invaluable source of strategic counsel and advice for me and our wider leadership team, and I want to thank him personally for the role he has played in stewarding the business so successfully,” she said.

Analysts at Jeffries said Ferrán had “brought fresh thinking to Diageo”, highlighting his work in helping to reshape the drinks giant’s portfolio and geographic footprint, as well as “accelerate innovation, increase marketing spend and drive productivity improvements”.

Manzoni, meanwhile, was as a “safe pair of hands”, they said, adding his appointment pointed to continuity and that he was unlikely to be viewed as “a change agent”.

The appointment comes with Diageo looking to draw a line under a tricky year in which its share price has been battered by a slowdown in sales in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

The company issued a shock profit warning in November, warning consumers were buying less alcohol and seeking cheaper brands in the market, which accounts for a tenth of its sales. 

In the six months to 31 December, the drinks giant reported net sales of $11bn, down 1.4% or $158m year on year. The decline was largely fuelled by a $310m or 23% slump in sales in LAC.

Diageo shares slipped by 1% in early trading following the announcement of Manzoni’s appointment.