posted by admin on 15/08/06
Ms. Nooyi beat out Michael White, 54, Pepsi's vice chairman
By CHAD TERHUNE and JOANN S. LUBLIN
August 15, 2006
At a corporate diversity event last year for PepsiCo Inc. employees, Indra K. Nooyi stood up to introduce guest speaker Harry Belafonte. Wearing a traditional Indian sari, a style she wears on special occasions, Pepsi's then-chief financial officer talked about the company's strides in creating a more diverse workplace but cautioned that "the full potential of diversity is not realized without an inclusive culture." Then she broke from the standard script and led more than a hundred employees on an impromptu sing-along of the entertainer's famous song "Day-O."
It was nothing out of the ordinary for the 50-year-old Indian-born executive, who fronted an all-female rock band in college and has remained close to her roots on the subcontinent. Now Ms. Nooyi is poised to take center stage as chief executive of the food-and-beverage giant effective Oct. 1, culminating a 12-year climb up the company ladder.
While the timing of yesterday's announcement came earlier than expected, Ms. Nooyi had been one of the leading internal candidates to succeed Chairman and CEO Steve Reinemund since she became Pepsi's president and finance chief in 2001.
Under Mr. Reinemund's leadership, Pepsi became consistent at churning out strong sales and profits. Late last year, it achieved what was once unthinkable: surpassing rival Coca-Cola Co. in market capitalization. Mr. Reinemund said the board will determine his successor as chairman in the coming months.
Ms. Nooyi beat out Michael White, 54, Pepsi's vice chairman and head of the company's fast-growing international business, for the corner office. One of her early goals will be to prevent the departure of Mr. White and other key executives. Mr. White aspires to run a public company, several recruiters say. Ms. Nooyi already has reached out to him, reassuring him that he can be an integral part of her leadership team, one person familiar with the situation says.
The Purchase, N.Y., company will become the largest in terms of market capitalization to be led by a woman. Two other female CEOs, Patricia A. Woertz at Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and Irene B. Rosenfeld at Kraft Foods Inc., lead companies with slightly higher annual revenue than Pepsi. Last year, Pepsi reported net income of $4.08 billion on revenue of $32.56 billion.
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Women at the top of major U.S. companies
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Ms. Nooyi will join 10 other women in the top job at the nation's 500 largest corporations, according to Catalyst Inc., a nonprofit New York group that researches women's issues. (That excludes Ms. Rosenfeld at Kraft, which is part of Altria Group Inc.) Other leading female CEOs include Meg Whitman at eBay Inc. and Anne Mulcahy at Xerox Corp. In 1994, none of the top 500 companies had a woman at the helm.
In a conference call with analysts and investors yesterday, Ms. Nooyi said she was "very excited and very humbled by the new appointment" and she lauded both Messrs. Reinemund and White for being "mentors." Mr. White responded by saying that the board had made an "absolutely outstanding choice" in promoting his longtime colleague.
Mr. Reinemund, a marathon runner who is in excellent health, said he is stepping down as CEO this fall and retiring as chairman next May in order to spend more time with his wife and four children. His two youngest children, who are twins, will enter high school next year. Pepsi said Ms. Nooyi's current duties will be split between two company veterans. Richard Goodman, 57, will take over as finance chief, and Hugh Johnston, 44, will be promoted to executive vice president of operations. Currently, Mr. Goodman is chief financial officer for Pepsi's international unit and Mr. Johnston is senior vice president for transformation. Mr. Reinemund quipped on the conference call: "It has taken two great men to replace one great woman." (See a transcript of the conference call.)
Roger Enrico, Pepsi's former chairman and CEO who worked closely with both Mr. Reinemund and Ms. Nooyi, said Mr. Reinemund had been considering retirement for at least a year for family reasons and that drove the timing of succession. This "is something he's been struggling with for a while," Mr. Enrico said. He described Ms. Nooyi as an "extremely visionary" executive who "challenges the status quo intellectually....She's ready to run this company."
Ramesh Vangal, a former Pepsi executive in India and close friend to Ms. Nooyi, says her patience as No. 2 paid off, and she was a logical choice for CEO as the company tries to expand its international footprint. Pepsi wants to become less reliant on the U.S. market, where sales growth has slowed for some of its flagship sodas and snacks. "She has a good grasp of all the international opportunities, and that is where the future of Pepsi lies," said Mr. Vangal, now an entrepreneur in India.
Corporate recruiters have tried numerous times to pry Ms. Nooyi away from Pepsi. But the Pepsi board, which includes former AT&T Corp. Chairman Robert E. Allen and retired International Business Machines Corp. Chairman John F. Akers, had made it clear over the years they didn't want to lose Ms. Nooyi. In 2004, she and Mr. White were granted multimillion-dollar restricted stock awards that require them to stay until 2009 to cash in.
Tod MacKenzie, a Pepsi spokesman, said no external forces, such as a competing job offer for Ms. Nooyi, forced the management moves now.
Ms. Nooyi joined Pepsi in 1994 after working as a corporate strategist at Motorola Inc. and Asea Brown Boveri Inc. She remains a director at Motorola. At Pepsi, her strategy and deal-making skills have been instrumental in remaking the company over the past decade. Ms. Nooyi helped spin off Pepsi's restaurant and bottling businesses and worked on the 1998 acquisition of juice maker Tropicana. Later, she was lead negotiator on the $13.8 billion acquisition of Quaker Oats Co. in 2001.
One thing lacking on Ms. Nooyi's Pepsi résumé has been direct experience running one of the company's snack or beverage units. Some analysts had thought Pepsi would give Ms. Nooyi an operations role at some point to give her more seasoning for the top job.
Ms. Nooyi is known for singing pop songs at work and for her razor-sharp wit. (During an employee talent show, she once teased Mr. Reinemund for being unfamiliar with American Idol's Paula Abdul.) But she's also a tough, plain-spoken boss who drives her employees hard and has sometimes alienated colleagues. She is fiercely competitive, from racing fellow executives home after a business trip, to playing hard to win a treasure hunt at a managers' retreat.
Her brash style has sometimes backfired publicly. Last year in a commencement address at Columbia University's business school, Ms. Nooyi compared five major continents to her hand with the U.S. representing the middle finger. In that talk, she said: "Each of us...must be careful that when we extend our arm in a business or political sense, we take pains to assure we are giving a hand...not the finger....Unfortunately, I think this is how the rest of the world looks at the U.S."
Once posted online, those comments unleashed a torrent of criticism in Internet chat rooms and blogs. Critics felt Ms. Nooyi was being anti-American. She was forced to post an apology on Pepsi's Web site in which she said, "I have come to realize that my words and examples about America unintentionally depicted our country negatively and hurt people....I love America unshakably."
Ms. Nooyi, who was raised in a middle-class family in India and came to the U.S. in 1978 for graduate school at Yale University, also will be forced to deal with a growing consumer backlash against Pepsi's sodas in her homeland over claims of excessive levels of pesticides in the drinks. Both Pepsi and Atlanta-based Coke have been battling allegations, made by the New Delhi environmental research group Centre for Science and Environment, that their sodas contain dangerous levels of pesticide residues. The companies have countered with a public-relations blitz stating that their sodas meet Indian and international health standards and pose no health risk.
Ms. Nooyi has maintained close ties over the years with Indian government officials and she has visited the country frequently to accelerate Pepsi's growth in that key emerging market.
Analysts don't expect a major shift in strategy under Ms. Nooyi, since she and Mr. Reinemund worked closely to craft the company's current course. While major acquisitions are possible, Ms. Nooyi has focused primarily on smaller deals in recent years that fill in geographic holes in Pepsi's international drinks and snacks business. She has also worked closely with other Pepsi executives on developing new product lines outside its core sodas and chips, such as fruit snacks and dairy drinks, as obesity becomes a bigger consumer issue globally.
Ms. Nooyi, who became a U.S. citizen in 1990, is deeply religious and has successfully merged her Hindu faith with the life of an American executive. She set aside a part of her home so that she could perform puja, or prayer, according to acquaintances. She and her husband have a teenage daughter and another in college.
Write to Chad Terhune at email@example.com and Joann S. Lublin at firstname.lastname@example.org