By Chris Isidore, CNN Money
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, one of the most prominent women to lead a Fortune 500 company, will step down on October 3.
She will remain as chairwoman of the board of directors until early 2019. Nooyi, 62, will be replaced by Pepsi’s global operations chief Ramon Laguarta, 54.
Nooyi, who was born in India, is one of a handful of people of color to lead a Fortune 500 company.
She helped turn Pepsi into one of the most successful food and beverage companies in the world. Sales grew 80% during her 12-year tenure. She spearheaded Pepsi’s transition to a greener, more environmentally aware company.
Nooyi has been with Pepsi for 24 years. Before becoming CEO she led the company’s expansion through acquisitions, including its 2001 purchase of Quaker Oats Co. She earned $31 million last year, and $87 million over the last three years, according to company filings.
“Growing up in India, I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to lead such an extraordinary company,” she said.
Her departure leaves only 24 women leading Fortune 500 companies, after Beth Ford became the CEO of Land O’Lakes just last week. Just more than a year ago there were 32 women leading Fortune 500 companies, meaning that the number of women in top jobs at the nation’s largest companies has dropped by more than 20% in just over a year.
Since the middle of last year several high-profile female CEOs announced they were stepping down last year, including Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, Irene Rosenfeld at Mondelez and Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Laguarta, Nooyi’s successor, has served as president of PepsiCo since September 2017, overseeing global operations, corporate strategy, public policy and government affairs. Laguarta is also an immigrant, having been born in Spain. He had previously been CEO of the European and sub-Saharan African unit of Pepsi before being named the company’s president.
Nooyi praised her successor, calling him “exactly the right person to build on our success.”
Pepsi’s stock lagged the broader market in recent years, and it has trailed rival Coca-Cola. Shares are down 1.5% this year, compared to a 5% rise in the S&P 500 index. Shares of Pepsi were slightly higher in pre-market trading.
Americans’ growing distaste for sugary sodas has hurt both Coke and Pepsi. In 2014 activist investor Nelson Peltz pushed for Pepsi to spin off its snack business as a separate company. But Nooyi was able to fight off calls to break up the company..
— CNNMoney’s Paul R. La Monica and Julia Carpenter contributed to this report.