Off the Cuff

How Pepsi's CEO Mixes Work and the Yankees


It's never easy being a chief executive of one of the biggest brands in the world but it's particularly challenging when you're struggling with a weak stock performance compared to your rivals and an activist shareholder breathing down your neck. So how do you power through that and still find time to squeeze in a Yankee game?

"I check my BlackBerry and my iPad and I read all the emails there and I show myself that there's no crisis I need to deal with," Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi told "Off the Cuff," a new series that will feature top leaders in candid interviews about life beyond the corner office.

Admittedly, she said, the lines between work and life disappear.

"The assumption is that work is when you come to the office, life is when you go home," she said. "Those lines are being blurred now."

She likes to watch the New York Yankees — but said she watches the games on "mute" so she can keep working.

Nooyi is one of the most in-demand CEOs — her name has been bandied about for everything from running India's Tata Group to leading the World Bank. Since taking the reins at Pepsi in 2006, the company's earnings have jumped more than 30 percent and sales have nearly doubled. When activist investor Ralph Whitworth's hedge fund took a $600 million position in Pepsi in the spring, it prompted buzz on Wall Street that he may be pushing for a break-up of the company, something that could potentially jeopardize Nooyi's position.

Nooyi said one of the most important pieces of advice she's gotten from her mentors is to periodically shut off work.

"I'm blessed with an enormous number of mentors. They always tell me things like, 'Make sure you take time off. Make sure you meditate. During the day, stop and just breathe deeply for a few minutes and then you calm yourself down.'"

Nooyi isn't just focused on her own performance — she's constantly on the lookout for up-and-coming talent.

"I've got several people I've identified around the company, around my social circle that I think have great potential. And so, many of these people, I talk to them, I give them advice and if they call me, I always make the time to see them."

So what is she most proud of — the jump in earnings? Doubling revenue?

In fact, she's most proud of keeping her eye on the future — and not getting lost in the weeds.

"Performing for today while transforming for tomorrow. It requires an enormous act of courage from the management team, the CEO, the board of directors and the fact that all of us have gone into this with such courage is what makes me particularly proud."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Ms. Nooyi's push to bring healthier options to Pepsi's brand line has been slow going. The details around this effort were mischaracterized.