One of the food industry’s most prominent and admired women leaders, and one of the few to lead a Fortune 500 company, will pass the torch to one of her key executive team members in roughly 60 days.
Longtime PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi, 62, is stepping down Oct. 3 after 24 years with the company, the last 12 as chief executive. She will be succeeded by PepsiCo President Ramon Laguarta, 54, whom Nooyi said “is exactly the right person to build on our success.”
Laguarta—who has held a number of executive management roles in his 22 years at PepsiCo., including his most recent president role since September 2017—will become the sixth CEO in the Purchase, N.Y.-based CPG giant’s 53-year history.
Nooyi, who will remain as chairman until early 2019, has navigated PepsiCo as its first female CEO through turbulent times in the industry alongside a legacy of strong leadership, consistent financial performance and pioneering leadership that grew the company’s better-for-you portfolio alongside her philosophy of "Performance With Purpose."
“Leading PepsiCo has truly been the honor of my lifetime, and I'm incredibly proud of all we have done over the past 12 years to advance the interests not only of shareholders but all our stakeholders in the communities we serve," Nooyi said in a statement. "Growing up in India, I never imagined I'd have the opportunity to lead such an extraordinary company. Guided by our philosophy of Performance With Purpose—delivering sustained performance while making more nutritious products, limiting our environmental footprint and lifting up all the communities we serve—we've made a more meaningful impact in people's lives than I ever dreamed possible. PepsiCo today is in a strong position for continued growth with its brightest days still ahead."
In a statement, Ian Cook, PepsiCo’s presiding board director, hailed Nooyi’s “outstanding leadership,” not only in the short run but the long run as well.
During her 12-year tenure as CEO, Cook said Nooyi grew revenue more than 80%, “outperforming our peers and adding a new billion-dollar brand almost every other year,” which benefited shareholders, who $1,000 stock invested in 2006 is now “worth more than two-and-a-half times that amount today.”
Beyond the key financial achievements on Nooyi’s watch since taking the helm of PepsiCo on Dec. 31, 2006, Cook praised her trailblazing leadership, which serves “as a model both within our industry and beyond for responsible corporate stewardship in the 21st century.
“As one of the first Fortune 100 CEOs to embed sustainability targets into business operations,” Cook continued, “Indra was a pioneer, paving the way for a new generation of business leaders who seek to 'do well by doing good.' Under her leadership, PepsiCo grew its portfolio of good-for-you and better-for-you options from about 38% of revenue in 2006 to roughly 50% in 2017,” while nearly tripling its investments in R&D to expand into more nutritious offerings while minimizing its environmental impact.
Cook further cited Nooyi’s indelible model of relationship-building with associate mentorship “up and down the organization ... and with leaders in every one of PepsiCo's key markets,” which has enabled PepsiCo to champion “diversity and [adhere] to the highest standards of corporate ethics," consistently earning it a place on Ethisphere's list of the World's Most Ethical Companies since the list was established 12 years ago.
Laguarta Up for the Challenge
Cook said Nooyi has well positioned PepsiCo and Laguarta—whom he called “a seasoned leader with deep experience in international markets”—for its next chapter of growth.
Nooyi concurred, describing Laguarta as “a critical partner in running the company” and “a terrific executive with a long and proven track record of growing businesses.” Nooyi also expressed confidence in Laguarta’s “deep understanding of the changing preferences of consumers and other critical trends unfolding around the world,” his demonstrated abilities “to navigate them successfully.”
For his part, Laguarta said he’s “incredibly humbled and privileged to be appointed the next CEO of PepsiCo” while expressing gratitude to Nooyi “for her overwhelming support. She has transformed the company with her bold vision and outstanding leadership, and I feel fortunate to have her as a mentor and a friend.”
Prior to his most recent role as PepsiCo’s president, Laguarta served as CEO of PepsiCo’s Europe Sub-Saharan Africa division, which is considered one of the company’s most complex businesses, with operations spanning three continents and comprised of developed, developing and emerging markets. Prior to that, he served as president of PepsiCo’s Eastern Europe region and served in a variety of sales, marketing and other commercial roles across Europe.
Earlier in his career, he held a number of leadership roles with Chupa Chups S.A., a leading confectionery company based in Spain, in both Europe and the U.S. A Barcelona native and fluent in multiple languages,, Laguarta holds an MBA from ESADE Business School in Spain and a master’s in international management from Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Daniel Vasella, chairman of the board’s nominating and corporate governance committee, said the selection of Laguarta, which was made following a thorough succession process, reflects his strong, proven and “outstanding track record growing organically and by acquisition some of PepsiCo’s largest and most important international businesses. He keenly understands the evolving needs of consumers and customers and the trends affecting our business in markets around the world,” and is well equipped to “[inherit] a well-positioned company poised to continue delivering top-tier performance.”
With Nooyi's departure, PepsiCo’s senior leadership team will remain unchanged. Laguarta’s direct reports include: Hugh F. Johnston, vice chairman and CFO; Dr. Mehmood Khan, vice chairman and chief scientific officer, global research and development; Albert P. Carey, CEO, PepsiCo North America; Vivek Sankaran, president and CEO, Frito-Lay North America; Kirk Tanner, president and COO, North America Beverages; Laxman Narasimhan, CEO, Latin America and Europe Sub-Saharan Africa; Silviu Popovici, president, Europe Sub-Saharan Africa; Mike Spanos, CEO, Asia, Middle East and North Africa; Dave Yawman, EVP of government affairs, general counsel and corporate secretary; Jon Banner, EVP, global communications and president, PepsiCo Foundation; and Ruth Fattori, EVP and chief human resources officer.
Continuing to report to Laguarta are: Jim Andrew, EVP and chief strategy and transformation officer; Grace Puma, EVP, global operations; and Eugene Willemsen, EVP, global categories & franchise management.
Nooyi described the planned succession as “a day of mixed emotions. This company has been my life for nearly a quarter century and part of my heart will always remain here. But I am proud of all we've done to position PepsiCo for success, confident that Ramon and his senior leadership team will continue prudently balancing short-term and long-term priorities, and excited for all the great things that are in store for this company. PepsiCo’s best days are still ahead.”