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Debra Kelly-Ennis Was President of Saab Cars USA

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CHICAGO ( -- Diageo, the world’s biggest spirits marketer, has hired the president and chief operating officer of General Motors Corp.'s Saab Cars USA as the new chief marketing officer of its North American division, the company announced.

April 25
Debra Kelly-Ennis will take Diageo North America’s top marketing job effective April 25 and will report to Diageo North America President-CEO Ivan Menezes. She succeeds Mark Waller, who was executive vice president for consumer strategy and marketing.

"Debra's outstanding record of consumer-focused marketing experience and managerial expertise in the highly competitive automotive industry make her a great fit for this position," Mr. Menezes said in a release.

Before joining Saab in 1998, Ms. Kelly-Ennis held marketing, sales and management posts with RJR/Nabisco and Grand Metropolitan.

Industry consultant Arthur Shapiro said her auto experience will come in handy in the spirits industry.

Image and fashionability
Ms. Kelly-Ennis "understands image, understands fashionability" -– important considerations in spirits, he said.

In the U.S., Diageo handles major brands including Smirnoff vodka, Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky, Crown Royal Canadian whiskey, Tanqueray gin and Captain Morgan rum.

Meanwhile, GM said Jay Spenchian, marketing director of Cadillac since last year, will replace Ms. Kelly-Ennis at Saab April 1 and will have the title of general manager. He and Ms. Kelly-Ennis joined GM in 1998 as outsiders with package goods experience. In 2000, Ms. Kelly-Ennis was named to head Oldsmobile just months before GM announced it would kill the brand.

Sales decline
Mr. Spenchian will have his work cut out for him at Saab, which said it sold only 38,159 cars in the U.S. last year -- a 20% decline from 2003's results.

GM hopes to return Saab back to profitability. The automaker leveraged resources at its other brands so Saab can start its most aggressive new-model assault. Saab's first sport utility vehicle, the 9-7X, which borrows from Chevrolet's TrailBlazer, is arriving this spring.

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Jean Halliday contributed to this report.

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