Spotlight on: Brian Cornell, Chief executive, Pepsico Americas Foods

Stephen Foley
Tuesday 13 March 2012 01:00 GMT

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas



What was that?

The starting gun

Oh, I get it. On the race to be the next chief executive of PepsiCo, fizzy drinks maker and purveyor of crisps and snacks to an increasingly obese world.

Yes, and Mr Cornell is the new favourite, right?

The marketing exec is returning to the company he left in 2004 to be the new head of its Americas Foods division, which makes Doritos and Lay's crisps. That puts him in pole position should the board succumb to investor dissent over current boss, Indra Nooyi.

What's his pedigree?

A talented and tenacious manager, who worked his way up through the ranks at Pepsi, where he was in charge of the Tropicana brand, and then moved into retail. Most recently, he ran Wal-Mart's discount chain, Sam's Club, but quit to spend more time with his family.

Oh, yeah? That's a politician's excuse

It's true he missed out on the top job at Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, but he has long complained about the toll of moving all around the globe. Decades ago, he skipped his University of California, Los Angeles graduation ceremony to travel to London in pursuit of his sweetheart; but since then, she has had to follow him around.

He says?

Martha and I "want to live in the same Zip code" as their adult children, Jonathan and Megan, "not just occasionally seeing them in hotels and restaurants". Handily, Pepsi is based in Purchase, New York, near where Mr Cornell grew up.

Is he the right man for Pepsi?

We'll see. He's got the corporate patter to a tee, with a mantra of focusing on "five Cs" (consumers, customers, competitors, costs, colleagues), but he will have some dynamic competition in PepsiCo veteran John Compton and European head Zein Abdalla. Ultimately it will come down to results – something Mr Cornell achieved at Sam's Club, and on which Ms Nooyi has been judged wanting in five years when the share price has flatlined.

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