A rar­ity on Wall Street

Pep­siCo’s In­dra Nooyi lat­est high-pro­file fe­male CEO to exit

The Western Star - - BUSINESS -

With In­dra Nooyi ex­it­ing Pep­siCo as its long­time chief ex­ec­u­tive, the cir­cle of CEOs in the For­tune 500 is los­ing one of its high­est pro­file women.

Nooyi, who was born in In­dia, is a rar­ity on Wall Street as a woman and a mi­nor­ity lead­ing a For­tune 500 com­pany. She over­saw Pep­siCo dur­ing a tur­bu­lent time in the in­dus­try that has forced food giants in­clud­ing Coca-Cola Co., Camp­bell Soup Co. and Oreo maker Mon­delez In­ter­na­tional Inc. to adapt to chang­ing tastes. All those com­pa­nies changed CEOs in roughly the last year.

At Pep­siCo, Nooyi stressed the com­pany’s move to­ward “good for you” op­tions, such as Baked Lay’s potato chips and Naked juices made of fruits and veg­eta­bles.

Nooyi, 62, has been with Pep­siCo Inc. for 24 years and held the top job for 12.

Ra­mon Laguarta, who has been with the com­pany for more than two decades, will take over as chief ex­ec­u­tive in Oc­to­ber, the com­pany said Mon­day. Nooyi will re­main as chair­woman un­til early next year.

“Grow­ing up in In­dia, I never imag­ined I’d have the op­por­tu­nity to lead such an ex­tra­or­di­nary com­pany,” Nooyi said in a pre­pared state­ment Mon­day.

Over­all, there are cur­rently 25 fe­male CEOs in­clud­ing Nooyi in the S&P 500, ac­cord­ing to Cat­a­lyst, which pro­motes women in the work­place. Within the food in­dus­try, Nooyi is the lat­est fe­male chief ex­ec­u­tive to step down, fol­low­ing Mon­delez CEO Irene Rosen­feld last year and Camp­bell CEO Denise Mor­ri­son ear­lier this year.

The in­dus­try has been un­der­go­ing ma­jor changes through ac­qui­si­tions, spinoffs and merg­ers as big com­pa­nies look for ways to drive up slump­ing rev­enues.

Nooyi took over as chief ex­ec­u­tive of Pep­siCo in Oc­to­ber 2006. In re­cent years, she re­sisted call by an ac­tivist in­vestor to spin off Pep­siCo’s bev­er­age busi­ness, which has strug­gled in North Amer­ica, from its bet­ter-per­form­ing Frito-Lay snacks busi­ness. Among Pep­siCo’s brands are Moun­tain Dew, Trop­i­cana, Ga­torade and Quaker Oats.

Nooyi hands the reins to the 54-year-old Laguarta, who has held a va­ri­ety of po­si­tions in his 22 years at Pep­siCo, which is based in Pur­chase, New York. He cur­rently serves as pres­i­dent, over­see­ing global op­er­a­tions, cor­po­rate strat­egy, pub­lic pol­icy and gov­ern­ment af­fairs. He pre­vi­ously served as CEO of the Europe Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa re­gion.

Prior to join­ing Pep­siCo, Laguarta worked at con­fec­tionary com­pany Chupa Chups.

Laguarta will be the sixth CEO in Pep­siCo’s history, with all of them com­ing from within the com­pany.

With a vet­eran tak­ing over and Nooyi stay­ing on as chair­woman for now, com­pany shares rose more than 1 per cent at the open­ing bell Mon­day.

AP PHOTO

Long­time Pep­siCo CEO In­dra Nooyi is step­ping down and she’ll be suc­ceeded by sea­soned Pep­siCo ex­ec­u­tive Ra­mon Laguarta.

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