PepsiCo Inc president John Compton is leaving the company to head truck-stop operator Pilot Flying J Oil Corp, narrowing the pool of likely candidates to become the soft drink and snack giant's next chief executive officer (CEO).
Zein Abdalla, president of PepsiCo Europe, will succeed Compton as president of PepsiCo, effective immediately. Enderson Guimaraes will take over from Abdalla in Europe, the company said late on Tuesday.
The news was a surprise, as Compton was just named president in March.
Some on Wall Street saw him as the most likely successor to CEO Indra Nooyi, who has been at the helm for five years and came under fire late last year for a stagnant stock price and a North American drink business that lagged Coca-Cola's.
The promotion of Abdalla, who has extensive global experience, now "clearly positions" him as a leading CEO candidate, said Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog.
"Furthermore, it seems to suggest a further shift away from a US/beverage centric leadership."
He added that any immediate departure by Nooyi seems less likely now, since Abdalla and Cornell lack the experience of Compton.
"PepsiCo could have transitioned to John (Compton) relatively seamlessly, whereas transitioning to Zein (Abdalla) or Brian (Cornell) at this point would be a tougher sell," said Powers.
Compton joined PepsiCo as a 21-year-old at the Pulaski, Tennessee, Frito-Lay facility.