PepsiCo announced Thursday the appointment of Ramon Laguarta, CEO of the company’s Europe and sub-Saharan Africa division, as President effective Sept. 1, filling a position that has been vacant for nearly three years.
In his new role, Laguarta will oversee PepsiCo’s global category groups; its global operations, corporate strategy, and public policy & government affairs, as well as the PepsiCo Foundation, the company said in a press release.
Born in Spain, Laguarta, 53, joined PepsiCo in 1996 and took over the Europe and sub-Saharan Africa division in 2015. Prior to his current role, he served in a variety of roles covering PepsiCo’s European operations, including president of developing and emerging markets and president of the PepsiCo Eastern Europe Region.
The president position has been vacant since former president Zein Abdalla left the company in 2014, and Thursday’s announcement brought back speculation about whether chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi may be searching for a successor. Nooyi has denied she has any plans to step down in the near future and said Laguarta should not be considered an heir apparent, according to The Wall Street Journal.
However, Laguarta’s appointment to the company’s number two position nonetheless makes him a top contender to assume the chief executive role someday. Finance chief Hugh Johnston and Laxman Narasimhan, CEO of the Latin America division, are also considered as likely candidates, according to press reports.
Nooyi, who became CEO in 2006, told the Journal that when the time comes for succession, the board of directors will have many qualified candidates to choose from.
With Laguarta’s promotion, Narasimhan will acquire his duties, rolling oversight of the Europe and sub-Saharan Africa division into his current position. Silviu Popovici, president of the Russia, Ukraine, and CIS division, will become president of Europe and sub-Saharan Africa and report to Narasimhan.
“Ramon, Laxman and Silviu are highly respected executives with long track records of delivering strong results throughout their careers,” Nooyi said in a press release. “These moves continue our longstanding practice of elevating great leaders within PepsiCo and allowing them to apply their capabilities in new ways that support our strategies for growth. We have an incredibly strong executive team in place, and I have no doubt that our next generation of talent will lift our company to even greater heights in the years ahead.”