PepsiCo announced a "reset" in February

PepsiCo announced a "reset" in February

PepsiCo's president John Compton has left the group after less than eight months in the role, sparking fresh speculation over who will succeed Indra Nooyi as CEO.

Compton, who worked for PepsiCo for the past 30 years, will become CEO of Pilot Flying J Oil Corporation, which operates truck stops in his home state of Tennessee, the company announced late yesterday (11 September). 

CEO of PepsiCo Europe, Zein Abdalla, has been appointed the group's new president, with immediate effect. 

Enderson Guimaraes will replace Abdalla as CEO of PepsiCo Europe, while Guimaraes' successor as president of the group's Global Nutrition Group will be named shortly, it said. 

Compton said the opportunity to take charge at Pilot Flying J Oil Corporation was a “once-in-a-lifetime chance”.

“I have deep and personal ties to Tennessee, and my family's plan all along has been to return to Tennessee at some point,” he said.

Compton moved into the newly created president position in March in a bid to add fizz to the flagging firm. His promotion from head of PepsiCo's Americas Foods division and his status as a company lifer meant he was seen as the “heir apparent” to PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who was under pressure at the time.

His sudden departure may have pushed back by a couple of years the date Nooyi steps aside, analysts said today.

“We think this evidences the board’s support for Indra’s leadership of PepsiCo’s 'reset',” Stifel Nicolaus said in a note referring to the company's plans in February to overhaul its business and claw back market share from rivals Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods.

“We also believe Indra is more likely to pass the baton a year or two from now, once the 'reset' is more firmly established,” the note said.

Stifel Nicolaus added that PepsiCo's next CEO is likely to come from the team leading Nooyi's "reset", including CFO Hugh Johnston, PepsiCo Americas Food CEO Brian Cornell, and Zein Abdalla. 

Vasu Majumdar, a beverage specialist at Grant Thornton UK, told just-drinks new president Abdalla had been successful in his previous role as PepsiCo CEO Europe, where he doubled the division's revenues from US$7bn to $14bn since 2008.

"He grew the European portfolio by focussing on the emerging markets in the region," Majumdar said. "Starting from a low base, he led PepsiCo to become the largest food and beverage company in Russia. That happened during his tenure."