PepsiCo Shakes Up Management, Fueling CEO Succession Rumors


PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) has had steady leadership in the corner office. Current CEO Indra Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 1994 and was named president and CFO in 2001. She oversaw a host of restructurings, including the 1997 divestiture of restaurants that have now become Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) and a merger with Quaker Oats Company.  Then in 2007 she became the fifth CEO in PepsiCo’s history.

Now, it appears PepsiCo may be grooming a potential successor to Indra Nooyi, carrying on its fight to creep up on arch rival Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE:KO).

There’s nothing imminent, but a company like Pepsi is clearly concerned with planning ahead and would like to make arrangements now rather than scramble in case a new CEO is needed in a few years.

Pepsi just poached the president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) warehouse chain Sam’s Club to head PepsiCo Americas Foods, Brian Cornell. Cornell previously held management positions at Pepsi, including president of its Tropicana brand and its Europe and Africa beverage businesses, before leaving the company in 2004.

He is taking over for PepsiCo exec John Compton, who was named the new president and will oversee the soda and snack company’s global operations.

This kind of structure is not uncommon for a food products giant. Kraft (NYSE:KFT) is, in fact, splitting its North American operations off from global snacks divisions in the near future to allow for separate strategies to address the unique needs of these different markets.

The growth is definitely abroad in emerging markets, so Compton definitely appears to have an edge in the CEO race with his new appointment. Howver, it’s worth noting that at its annual investor meeting last month, PepsiCo said it plans to focus on regaining market share in North America by rolling out new products and significantly boosting its ad spending. So Cornell is no small part of Pepsi’s strategy.

But whoever takes over the reins, it won’t be for some time. Clearly in the short term Pepsi has more important things to worry about – and if the recent Pepsi layoffs are any indication, the company isn’t afraid to make tough choices to remain one of the dominant consumer brands in the world.

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