Diageo is an invented name that was created by the branding consultancy Wolff Olins in 1997. The name is composed of the Latin word di?s, meaning "day", and the Greek rootgeo-, meaning "world"; and is meant to reference the company slogan "Celebrating Life, Every Day, Everywhere".
Diageo was formed in 1997 from the merger of Guinness Brewery and Grand Metropolitan. Its creation was driven by Guinness executives Anthony Greener and Philip Yea along with George Bull and John McGrath of Grand Metropolitan. Anthony Greener was the first executive chairman. Shares in Diageo began trading on the London Stock Exchange on 17 December 1997.
In February 2011, Diageo agreed to acquire the Turkish liquor company Mey Icki for $2.1 billion.
In May 2012, Diageo agreed to acquire Ypioca, the largest-selling brand of premium cachaça in Brazil, for £300 million.
In June 2012, Diageo announced a £1 billion investment in Scotch whisky production over the following five years, with at least one new distillery to be constructed, several existing facilities to be expanded, and overall production capacity to be increased by 30 to 40 percent. This did not, however, involve retaining the original Johnnie Walker plant in Kilmarnock, which had already closed its doors in March the same year.
In November 2012, Diageo agreed to acquire a 53.4% stake in the Indian spirits company United Spirits for £1.28 billion.
In February 2017, Diageo announced plans to open a Guinness brewery and tourist attraction in Baltimore County, Maryland. The brewery could potentially create 70 new jobs and host as many as 300,000 visitors per year.
In February 2018, Diageo announced plans for limited edition bottles of its 12-year-old Black Label blended whisky named Jane Walker, as opposed to Johnnie Walker, to be sold. The label will feature a striding woman on the label rather than the top-hatted man normally associated with the brand.
In 1996, Diageo moved to a head office facility in Henrietta Place, in the Marylebone district of the City of Westminster in London. In 2009, Diageo announced that it was closing the Henrietta Place facility as part of a cost reduction programme. Diageo moved its employees to the Park Royal site. During that year, about 1,000 employees were located at the Henrietta Place and Park Royal offices. The lease in the Henrietta facility was scheduled to expire in 2010.
Diageo received major backlash from the public and the Scottish Government following the decision to close Johnnie Walker production in Kilmarnock, Scotland, the birthplace of the brand's founder and production hub since 1820
In December 2003, Diageo caused controversy when it changed its Cardhu brand Scotch whisky from a single malt to a vatted (blended) malt whilst retaining the original name and bottle style. Diageo took this action because it did not have sufficient reserves to meet demand in the Spanish market, where Cardhu had been successful. After a meeting of producers, Diageo agreed to make changes.
In July 2009, Diageo announced that, after nearly 200 years of association with the town of Kilmarnock, Scotland, they would be closing the Johnnie Walker blending and bottling plant as part of restructuring to the business. This would make 700 workers unemployed and caused outrage from press, local people and politicians. A campaign against this decision was launched by the local SNP MSP Willie Coffey and Labour MP Des Browne. A petition was drawn up against the plans, which also involved the closure of the historic Port Dundas grain distillery in Glasgow.
In February 2009, it was reported in The Guardian that the company had restructured itself so as to avoid paying tax in the UK.
The National Puerto Rican Coalition planned to run a series of ads in New York City and Puerto Rico urging a boycott of Diageo-owned alcoholic drinks to protest the corporation's production move of its Captain Morgan rum from Puerto Rico to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which will provide it with $2.7 billion in tax benefits over 30 years.
In 2011, Diageo agreed to pay more than $16 million to settle US civil regulatory charges that it made improper payments to foreign officials. Regulators accused the company of violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to obtain sales and tax benefits for its Johnnie Walker and Windsor Scotch whiskeys and other brands. The SEC said that from 2003 to 2009, Diageo paid $2.7 million to officials in India, Thailand, and South Korea through its subsidiaries. The settlement included $11.3 million in disgorgement of profits, plus $2.1 million in interest and a $3 million penalty.
On 9 May 2012, Scottish Craft brewery BrewDog revealed that Diageo had threatened to withdraw funding from BII Scotland's annual awards if BrewDog was named winner of the Best Bar Operator award. Diageo was forced to issue an apology.
In 2015, Diageo offended survivors of rape and sexual abuse with an advertising campaign showing a young girl crying with her makeup smeared as her sister looks at her from the doorway, and the caption, "Who's following in your footsteps? Out of control drinking has consequences." The director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland said Diageo "blames victims of sexual violence for the crimes that have been committed against them. The belief that drunk girls are 'asking for it' is one that needs to be strongly challenged as it is one that we know perpetrators use to select and target their victims knowing this cultural attitude will mean they get away with it. [...] This is a harmful, regressive and hurtful message which targets the vulnerable. Survivors of sexual violence should never be used in this manner. This latest ad builds on the shaming of women theme that can be seen in much drink related campaigning. The out-of-control campaign which started by asking women if they were 'embarrassed' while they were being photographed without their consent in a potentially compromising position, has now progressed to blaming victims of rape for their own rape."
In November 2016, Diageo announced its intention of selling at auction Sir Edwin Landseer's iconic 1851 painting The Monarch of the Glen - which the company owns, but which has been on loan to the National Museum of Scotland since 1999 - as it had "no direct link to our business or brands". The sale was expected to raise over £10 million.Ian Jack, writing in The Guardian, compared the proposed sale to "feeding old masters into the boilers of luxury liners to keep the steam up", and stated that "any business with a sense of history would give the picture to a public gallery in Scotland, the place without which both the business and the picture would be nothing. It would be the decent thing."
In July 2017, Diageo was accused of using its huge influence over Irish publicans to pressure some based in Cork city into swapping out craft beer taps offering Irish-produced craft beer for Diageo beer brands, after several such pubs all did so over the course of one weekend. Diageo denied the accusation.