Legal Business

Diageo

  • General counsel: Siobhan Moriarty.
  • Global team headcount: 140 lawyers.

Global drinks giant Diageo is noted for housing a weighty 140-strong legal team that deals with issues spanning M&A, intellectual property (IP), and antitrust work on an international scale, with the team receiving a number of citations.

Operating as a matrix structure, the team is praised by its GC Siobhan Moriarty for its resilience and creativity in helping the business achieve its goals. Moriarty comments: ‘We see our reason for existing as enabling the business to achieve its objectives within the legal and regulatory constraints that exist but do it in a creative and proactive way.’

A priority for the legal team is to encourage gender diversity, and currently 53% of its leadership roles across the global legal function are female, with 42% based in emerging markets. The company – which had revenues in 2013 of £15.48bn – has set itself a target to have 30% female representation of executive leadership roles across the business by 2015 – the figure currently stands at 28% globally – and the development of female talent, while programmes for flexible working, wellbeing and education for female employees are also in place.

Key members of the team include GC for western Europe, Catriona Macritchie, and GC for Asia Pacific, Annabel Moore.

Major mandates for the company, which produces Smirnoff Vodka and Johnnie Walker whisky, included the acquisition of a majority controlling stake (55%) – through a series of transactions over 2013 and 2014 – in the listed Indian company United Spirits, while other deal work involved an agreement to acquire 50% of the Don Julio tequila brand from Jose Cuervo and the connected sale of the Bushmills Irish Whiskey brand to Casa Cuervo, which is expected to close in Q1 of 2015.

Last year also saw Diageo undergo a major internal reorganisation, which involved eliminating an entire regional structure. Moriarty credits the legal team for its ability to adapt to the changing business environment. Moriarty herself is highlighted for her contribution in leading the legal function across Europe, a role she stepped into following her predecessor Tim Proctor’s retirement after 13 years. A corporate lawyer, she worked in private practice in London and Dublin before joining the FTSE 100 company’s in-house practice in 1997, where she has also worked as corporate M&A counsel and regional counsel for Ireland. She believes it is crucial for teams to maintain a level of connection with the business.