In what has been described as a sudden and surprising development, PepsiCo president Zein Abdalla notified the company that he will retire on Dec. 31.
PepsiCo, which revealed the news in a regulatory filing, didn't offer a reason for the retirement or announce a successor.
Abdalla, 56, who has been president since September 2012, oversees all of PepsiCo's global category groups (beverages, snacks and nutrition), global operations (IT, procurement, supply chain and productivity) and global marketing services and corporate strategy.
Abdalla was widely viewed as a possible successor to chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi, and his departure closely follows that of another veteran PepsiCo executive, Brian Cornell. Cornell, who was CEO of PepsiCo Americas Food, left at the end of July to become CEO of Target. Another potential successor, John Compton, left the company in 2012.
The departure of Abdalla, who is well regarded inside and outside PepsiCo, "caught many off-guard," and while Nooyi has said she has no plans to retire anytime soon, there is now "a very short list of potential internal CEO successors," noted The Wall Street Journal.
PepsiCo CFO Hugh Johnston, said to have for some time been viewed as a dark-horse candidate for the CEO succession, now appears to be the favorite for the job.
Abdalla's departure "would suggest either that [Nooyi] is staying for a very long time or that [current CFO] Hugh Johnston is the likely successor," Ali Dibadj, an Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst, told Bloomberg News.
Abdalla joined PepsiCo in 1995, and has served in several senior positions, including CEO of PepsiCo Europe, general manager of the Europe beverage business unit, general manager of Tropicana Europe, and franchise VP for the Pakistan and Gulf region, according to PepsiCo's official bio. He also led the complete portfolio of PepsiCo businesses in Europe.
In a statement provided to the press, the company praised Abdalla for having "poured his heart and soul into PepsiCo for nearly 20 years," adding that his leadership "helped us to consistently deliver strong results while also positioning PepsiCo for sustainable long-term growth and value creation.”