Roger Enrico, who led Pepsi through the high-stakes "Cola Wars" of the 1980s, has died. He was 71.
Although known for his lengthy career with PepsiCo, where he inked a sponsorship deal with pop icon Michael Jackson during his time as U.S. CEO, Enrico also served as board chairman of motion pictures studio DreamWorks from 2004 to 2012.
"Today is an incredibly sad day for the PepsiCo family, for we have lost one of the true legends of our company and our industry," said PepsiCo CEO and chairman Indra Nooyi in a statement. "Roger Enrico was, quite simply, one of the most creative marketers of his or any generation. He was a risk-taker, never afraid to challenge the status quo or make bold moves to get ahead. He was tough as nails, always prepared to get the job done and beat the competition. At the same time, he had a true love for our people and a passion for empowering them to reach their full potential."
She added: "Roger devoted more than 30 years of his life to PepsiCo and his leadership was instrumental in making us the company we are today. He was a dear friend, role model and mentor to so many of us and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Roger's lovely wife, Rosemary, his son, Aaron, and the rest of the Enrico family during this difficult time."
Sources tell Adweek Enrico died in a snorkeling accident near a popular tourist attraction close to his former Cayman Islands residence, but details have not yet been released.
After graduating from Babson College and serving in the Army during the Vietnam War, Enrico first joined PepsiCo's Frito-Lay in Dallas in 1972 as an associate marketing director for the Funyuns brand. He subsequently rose up company ranks, serving in top positions in Japan and Brazil before becoming president and CEO of beverages in 1983 following the departure of then-president John Scully.
Over the next few years, Enrico helped Pepsi compete with chief rival Coca-Cola by developing the Pepsi Challenge in which a majority of passersby subjected to a blind taste test preferred Pepsi to Coke. He later signed Jackson and launched iconic campaigns starring The King of Pop along with Madonna, Cindy Crawford and more. Most of these ads were produced by the company's then-agency of record BBDO.
Pepsi's expanding market share led its chief rival to develop the infamous New Coke, and Enrico later wrote a book about the experience called "The Other Guy Blinked: How Pepsi Won the Cola Wars." He was promoted to CEO of PepsiCo Beverages in 1987 and held that position until 1991 before moving into food, becoming CEO of Frito-Lay and leading Pepsi's restaurant division–which at the time included Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC.
In 2004, Enrico became chairman of DreamWorks Animation SKG as the company went public. He held that position until 2012, when he resigned to be replaced by board member Mellody Hobson; she now serves as chair of the company's board of directors.
Enrico is survived by his wife and son.