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PepsiCo president seizes 'once in lifetime' chance to fly new firm

By Ben Bouckley , 12-Sep-2012
Last updated on 12-Sep-2012 at 12:25 GMT

PepsiCo says it feels sadness after the sudden resignation of president John Compton, who has left the firm to pursue a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity as CEO of Pilot Flying J.

The departure of 30-year PepsiCo veteran Compton (pictured) is a surprise, since he only assumed his newly created position in March 12, when the firm whipped the covers off its new Global Leadership Structure.

"It isn't often that the opportunity arises to run one of America's largest private companies, and this new opportunity was a once in a lifetime chance to do so," Compton (pictured below) said, referring to his new position as CEO of truck stop giant Pilot Flying J.

Compton’s position has been filled by Zein Abdalla, former CEO of PepsiCo Europe; PepsiCo executive Enderson Guimaraes has taken the latter’s place.

Compton had been tipped as a possible successor to current CEO and chair Indra Nooyi, who has aroused some investor unrest due to her 'Power of One' strategy, and jibes from some quarters (hotly denied in others ) that she is a 'nutrition CEO' who neglects the firm's core brands.

Nooyi and PepsiCo are also fighting to improve the fortunes of its Americas beverage business, and influential US analysts Caroline Levy and Michael Lavery (CSTA) went on record in May stating that they saw more value in PepsiCo as "separate focused entities” than as a whole.

Disquiet at 'Power of One'

“Like many investors, we have been dissatisfied with ‘Power of One’ initiatives and believe PepsiCo is more valuable than its parts," they wrote in a May 2012 note sent to BeverageDaily.com, suggesting an Americas beverages spin-off as one option for management to consider.

Officially, Compton's decision to depart has been attributed by both himself and PepsiCo to family reasons, with Nooyi praising a move that is "right for him and his family", since it involves Compton assuming a CEO position in his native Tennessee. 

Emphasizing his love for PepsiCo, Compton said his deep family ties in Tennessee meant that he always intended to return to that state at some point.

"I'm confident in PepsiCo's business strategy, and I believe that PepsiCo's best days are yet to come. I wish Indra and PepsiCo all the best in the future," Compton added.

Abdalla (below) will now assume Compton's Purchase, New York-based role overseeing PepsiCo's global category groups (Global Beverages, Global Snacks, Corporate Nutrition), global operations (IT, Global Procurement, Supply Chain and Productivity), Global Marketing Services and Corporate Strategy.

Nooyi rolls out red carpet for Abdalla

Today, PepsiCo was keen to talk Abdalla up, with Nooyi praising his business acumen and "outstanding business and operational results as leader of our European sector".

During his leadership from 2008, European division revenues grew from $7bn to $14bn, Nooyi said, adding that Abdalla transformed the region's portfolio, shifting it towards the higher-growth markets and helping PepsiCo become Russia's largest food and beverage firm.

As former president of PepsiCo's global nutrition group, Abdalla's replacement Guimaraes (newly based in Geneva) only joined PepsiCo last year, but previously served as CEO of Electrolux's major appliances business in Europe, and before that at Philips Electronics. 

While Guimaraes' replacement is yet to be announced, Saad Abdul-Latif remains CEO of PepsiCo Asia, Middle East & Africa and Al Carey continues as CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages.

Brian Cornell CEO of PepsiCo Americas Foods, Hugh Johnston, executive VP, CFO and Mehmood Khan, chief scientific officer for global R&D also keep their current positions.

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