Diageo Said to Appoint Egon Zehnder in External Search for CFO

Diageo Plc, the world’s largest distiller, is looking outside of the company for its next chief financial officer and has hired executive-search firm Egon Zehnder International Inc. to review candidates, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The role will be filled as soon as possible, yet no announcement is expected by the time Diageo reports full-year results July 30, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the search is private. Current finance chief Deirdre Mahlan will take over Diageo’s North American business once a successor is found, the maker of Smirnoff vodka said last month.

The CFO search comes as Diageo Chief Executive Officer Ivan Menezes grapples with a slowdown in emerging markets such as China and Latin America, while its growth in North America -- the company’s biggest market -- has lagged behind the broader spirits category for the past three years. Last month, Diageo’s shares surged on a report that Brazilian investment company 3G Capital was considering a takeover bid.

Looking outside the company for such a senior role is a departure for Diageo, which typically has groomed top managers such as Menezes and Mahlan from within. Still, Diageo is not the only European consumer-goods company to do so. Nestle SA hired Takeda Pharmaceutical’s François-Xavier Roger as its new CFO last month. Unilever and SABMiller Plc have filled their CFO vacancies internally this year.

Representatives for Diageo and Egon Zehnder declined to comment.

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