(CNN) -- The young Paul Walsh initially wanted to become a pilot, but poor eyesight kept him out of the cockpit.
Instead Walsh turned to business management and after studying accounting at Manchester Polytechnic found employment with the food and drinks firm Grand Metropolitan (GrandMet).
He first joined GrandMet as a financial planning and accounts manager for the company's Watney, Mann and Truman Brewers division in 1982. He quickly climbed GrandMet's corporate ladder, becoming a finance director in 1986 then chief financial officer for Inter-Continental Hotels in 1987, and for the food division in 1989.
In 1992 Walsh was appointed chief executive officer of Pillsbury, which was then owned by GrandMet, a position he kept until 2000.
After acting as chief operating officer for Diageo from January to August 2000, Walsh succeeded John McGrath, who subsequently retired from Diageo at the end of 2000, as CEO.
Walsh made an immediate impact when he took over Diageo in 2000. By selling off the company's food concerns and concentrating on the marketing and innovation of its core premium drinks brands, he refocused and re-energized the company.
Walsh took successful ideas from other markets, such as the soft-drink industry, and combined them with an aggressive and innovative sales and promotion campaign.
Walsh then opted to redefine his company by shedding its food holdings and focusing solely on premium drinks. Pillsbury was sold off to General Mills in October 2001 for $10.5 billion, and the company's Burger King holdings were sold to a private consortium in December 2002 for $1.5 billion.