Jim Armitage: Raising a glass to the king of the deal makers
Outlook Time for a final toast to Diageo's Paul Walsh. You may not have liked his penchant for big-game hunting in Africa, or that elephant-sized £18m pay-off, but his palate for a right-priced deal was second to none. Few chief executives, bar perhaps Sir Chris Gent at Vodafone, have so framed the shape of a major British business today with clever deal making.
Key to Mr Walsh's success was that, although he built the business through acquisitions, he managed to do so while steering clear of the overpriced mega-deals punted his way by fee-hungry investment bankers in the booming noughties, most notably Allied Domecq.
Instead, he'd either team up to buy a few choice brands from the big-ego bidders, or stay out of the fray and do cleverer, cheaper deals thousands of miles away while his rivals' backs were turned.
The exception was the $8.2bn (£5.1bn) takeover of Vivendi's Captain Morgan rum drinks behemoth Seagram, but even there, in a deal that would frame the future of Diageo for decades to come, he teamed up with Pernod Ricard to lighten the financial load.
Not every deal went right in the early days at Diageo's predecessor Grand Metropolitan.
Flushed with the successful 1988 sale of InterContinental Hotels to Japanese buyers at the top of the market, he overpaid in the hostile takeover of the Häagen-Dazs ice cream owner Pillsbury.
But perhaps the experience taught him the perils of ego-driven growth first hand.
When Grand Met merged with Guinness to form Diageo, he quickly twigged that Pillsbury, his baby, had to go. The merged business was too unwieldy, sucking up too much cash. He decided: let Unilever do food, we'll take drinks. Pillsbury and Burger King were sold and he spent the rest of his career building up the most successful spirits business in the world.
Mr Walsh stepped down from the board at its annual meeting yesterday. He's been replaced by another executive with Diageo in his DNA, Ivan Menezes, who's also been with the business since its Grand Met predecessor. Mr Menezes has done a couple of canny Walsh-style off-the-radar deals in recent years and Diageo seems to have planned the succession well.
One thing, though. You could just about swallow Mr Walsh's pay. He had, after all, built a successful, transformed company during his 13 years at the top.
But Mr Menezes? It would have been more decent of him to start on a little less than a greedy £11m a year.
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...
£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...