PepsiCo lining up potential successors to Nooyi

FILE - In this June 4, 2010 file photo, President and CEO of Sam's Club Brian Cornell speaks during the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. shareholders' meeting in Fayetteville, Ark. PepsiCo said Monday, March 12, 2012, it’s bringing back Cornell to head one of its top businesses and named one of its long-time executives as its president. (AP Photo/April L. Brown, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — PepsiCo may be lining up a potential successor to CEO Indra Nooyi, bringing back a former executive to head its biggest moneymaking unit and naming an insider to the newly created role of president.

Brian Cornell, who was president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Sam's Club division, on Monday was named CEO of PepsiCo Americas Foods. The unit includes the Purchase, New York-based company's Frito-Lay and Quaker foods and snacks businesses.

He takes over for John Compton, who was named president and will oversee the soda and snack company's global operations and marketing.

PepsiCo said Compton will work with its regional groups for Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa to build brands, develop new products and cut costs. Compton, who is 52, started his career with PepsiCo when he was 22 and has been there ever since.

Cornell, who is 50, previously held management positions at Pepsi, including president of its Tropicana brand and its Europe and Africa beverage businesses, before leaving the company in 2004.

PepsiCo said the appointments are effective immediately.

In a note to investors on Monday, Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. analyst Mark Swartzberg said he considered it a "reasonable outcome" that Nooyi would soon leave her post as CEO, paving the way for Compton or another senior PepsiCo executive.

The new management structure comes as PepsiCo, the No. 2 U.S. cola company, has lost ground in recent years to rival The Coca-Cola Co. and faced speculation that Nooyi would step down amid investor dissatisfaction.

At its annual investor meeting last month, PepsiCo said it plans to focus on regaining market share in North America by rolling out new products and significantly boosting its ad spending. The company also said it would cut 8,700 jobs, or about 3 percent of its work force.

While PepsiCo is clearly focused on identifying its business fundamentals and identifying ways to strengthen its advantages, Citi analyst Wendy Nicholson also noted last month that it would be "a mistake to underestimate the chaos factor" at PepsiCo.

She cited the high level of turnover during the past year, including the company's announcement that Massimo d'Amore, the president of its global beverages group, would retire early next year.

"While we believe change is good, especially for an organization that has underperformed, we also wonder how much more shifting of responsibilities is yet to come," she wrote.

Shares of PepsiCo gained 32 cents to $63.47 in morning trading.