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PepsiCo executive to head Severn Trent

A FORMER senior executive with the soft drinks giant PepsiCo was yesterday named as the next chief executive of Severn Trent, the water and waste services group.

Robert Walker, who spent 22 years with PepsiCo, the last five as a division president, will take over the pounds 300,000-a-year job from the present chief executive Vic Cocker in July next year. Mr Cocker, who has held the job since 1995, is retiring from Severn Trent when he reaches 60 next October.

Between now and next July, Mr Walker will work with Mr Cocker as deputy chief executive. Mr Walker has been a non-executive director of Severn Trent since May 1996 but was headhunted for the chief executive's job by a firm of outside consultants, Heidrick & Struggles.

Mr Walker, 54, does not have any experience of running a large utility but Mr Cocker said he had been selected for his international experience and ability to develop new businesses. Severn Trent is seeking to build up its non-regulated activities in waste and environmental and laboratory services into a pounds 1bn-a-year business within the next five years. Prior to joining PepsiCo, Mr Walker worked for the management consultant McKinsey and Co and the consumer products group Procter & Gamble. He was educated at Hampton School in Middlesex and read history at Magdalen College, Oxford. He is married with two children.

Mr Cocker, the brother of the singer Joe Cocker, said he intended to spend some time relaxing on retirement. He does not intend to take up another executive post but he may look around for a non-executive chairmanship. He is currently a non-executive director of Railtrack and vice-chairman of the charity Wateraid.