Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide has switched from Coca-Cola to Pepsi - 18 months after Coke's former president and COO joined the hotel company.

Steve Heyer, who left Coke in September 2004 after losing out on the race to become CEO and chairman of the soft drink giant, subsequently became CEO of Starwood. The hotel company has had an exclusive deal with Coke since it was formed in 1998.

The new agreement with Pepsi will see Coke's rival's products being served in most of Starwood's US properties, with the exception of Atlanta, Georgia - where Coke is based - and hotels in Disney World in Florida and the Starwood-owned St. Regis chain.

Speaking to local reporters, a Starwood spokesperson said the company switched because of Pepsi's commitment to Starwood hotels, plans for integrated marketing and a good offer on price.

Heyer, who was thought to have been the favoured internal candidate to replace Douglas Daft as chairman and CEO, had been widely-expected to leave the company after Neville Isdell was announced as Daft's replacement in May, 2004. Heyer's departure was confirmed a month later.