Diageo builds globally with first India-based legal counsel

Diageo is ramping up its Asia-Pacific in-house legal capability as the it undergoes a global shake-up of its legal function, appointing its first Indian-based counsel and creating two new positions in China.

The company has hired India-based Chetan Nagendra from the Bangalore office of local firm Amarchand Mangaldas. Nagendra becomes the fifth Asia-Pacific in-house lawyer for Diageo, reporting to Asia-Pacific assistant general counsel Annabel Moore.

“These new positions are a reflection of the growth ambitions of Diageo and the importance the company places on getting its legal structure right from the beginning,” said Moore. “It makes sense for us to have people on the ground in both India and China.”

Asia-Pacific general counsel Doug Fremont was reassigned from the Latin America region in July. The company is still searching for a North America general counsel after Wally Martinez returned to private practice as managing partner of Hunton & Williams.

Nagendra’s appointment comes as Diageo finalises a major joint-venture arrangement with Indian drinks company Radico Khaitan.

Diageo is using Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer on its Indian joint venture and is known to favour Herbert Smith in the Asia-Pacific, but it primarily uses local firm Desai & Diwanji for Indian matters.

US and UK law firms are barred from practising in India, but are finding ways to access its booming economy.

The two new positions in China have yet to be filled.