Diageo’s long-serving chief marketing officer, Syl Saller, is to retire after two decades at the drinks giant, with Cristina Diezhandino set to step up.
Saller joined Diageo in 1999 as marketing director for Great Britain and rose through the ranks to be named its global CMO in 2013.
In the role she has most recently championed gender diversity issues, setting benchmarks for its internal marketers and agencies to improve the representation of women in its teams as well as on screens, which have since been emulated by many other organisations in the industry.
It is understood she doesn’t have another role to go to and will instead focus on leadership development and executive coaching, alongside her non-executive roles.
“Deciding to leave and embark on the next stage of my career is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Diageo is the most incredible company, with people who are talented, committed, and passionate,” she said.
“My goal is to go out into the world and develop more of those people. I am very proud of what I’m leaving behind – a strong function that is committed to getting better by learning and growing themselves.”
Diezhandino, currently global category director for Scotch and managing director for Diageo’s luxury brands business, will assume the top marketing role from 1 July.
Saller described Diezhandino as a “remarkable leader, driven by both performance and creativity”.
“Cristina has a deep understanding of brands, markets and operations and is widely respected, unflappable with deep compassion for others,” she added.
Diezhandino has been at Diageo for 13 years and has experience across marketing and general management. She has overseen its biggest single investment in Scotch whisky tourism and has led Diageo’s business in over 37 territories as the GM for Central America and the Caribbean. She has also held key roles including regional marketing and innovation director for Diageo Africa and global brand director for its whisky and gin portfolio.
“I have had the privilege to work closely with Syl over many years and we have enjoyed an amazing partnership," said Ivan Menezes, chief executive. "Syl has always held herself and colleagues to the highest standards while showing great empathy for our people and their success. We are all hugely grateful for her leadership impact in delivering Diageo’s performance and building our reputation as a world class consumer marketing company.
“Thanks to Syl, our pipeline of marketing talent has never been stronger, and I am delighted that Cristina will be our new CMO. Cristina has consistently shown herself to be a widely respected and resilient leader, able to build high performing teams across geographies and businesses and I look forward to continued brand growth under her leadership.”