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PepsiCo Boss Donald Kendall, Who Started the Cola Wars, Has Died

09/20/2020 | 05:03pm

By Mike Esterl and Jennifer Maloney

Donald M. Kendall, who built PepsiCo Inc. into a snack-and-beverage juggernaut and introduced the Soviet Union to American cola at the height of the Cold War, died Saturday. He was 99 years old.

The executive, who grew up milking cows and finished just three semesters of college, became chief executive of Pepsi-Cola Co. in 1963 at the age of 42 and presided over the company until he retired as CEO in 1986. During that time, sales grew nearly 40-fold through acquisitions and the "Pepsi Challenge" -- its high-profile marketing assault on the dominance of rival Coca-Cola Co.

"He was relentless about growing our business, a fearless leader, and the ultimate salesman," said Ramon Laguarta, PepsiCo's current chairman and CEO. "In many ways, he was the man who made PepsiCo, PepsiCo."

Write to Mike Esterl at mike.esterl@wsj.com and Jennifer Maloney at jennifer.maloney@wsj.com

 

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