PepsiCo on Tuesday said it had named a president, filling a long vacant second-in-command job, as the food and beverage giant added an executive to the ranks of CEO Indra Nooyi’s potential successors.
The maker of Pepsi, Gatorade and Quaker Oats said in a press release that Ramon Laguarta, currently in charge of its Europe and sub-Saharan Africa business, was being promoted to the role of president, a position last occupied three years ago, as of September 1. Laguarta, a Spaniard, will oversee global operations, corporate strategy, public policy and government affairs, a slightly different mix of responsibilities compared to position’s prior job description. His current duties will be added to the portfolio of Laxman Narasimhan, currently CEO of PepsiCo’s Latin America division. Both executives, along with finance chief Hugh Johnston, are seen as among the candidates to eventually succeed Nooyi.
But that handover isn’t imminent. Nooyi, PepsiCo’s CEO since 2006, told the Wall Street Journal she planned to stay in her role “for the foreseeable future” and that the appointments were meant to give these executives the chance to “stretch” their skills, dismissing the notion that any single candidate was an “heir apparent.” Indeed, getting tapped to the role of president isn’t a guarantee of anything: as the Journal pointed out, two previous holders of the president position left the company.
“These moves continue our longstanding practice of elevating great leaders within PepsiCo and allowing them to apply their capabilities in new ways that support our strategies for growth,” Nooyi said in a statement.
Laguarta has risen up the ranks of PepsiCo’s European operations. As for Narasimhan, he was a senior partner at McKinsey & Co. for 9 years before joining the company in 2012.On Nooyi’s watch, the company has made a bigger push for healthier snacks and beverages but also won a heated battle earlier this decade from activist investor Nelson Peltz who was pushing for a PepsiCo breakup. And the company’s shares have been trading near all-time highs. Last week, PepsiCo reported better than expected quarterly results as higher prices offset weaker demand in North America for certain products.
By Phil Wahba
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