Former Pepsi CEO dies snorkeling near Stingray City

Roger Enrico was frequent visitor to Cayman

In this June 14, 1985 photo, Roger Enrico, CEO of PepsiCo, poses in his office in Purchase, N.Y. - PHOTO: AP

Tributes have been paid to an “incredible man” and a “great leader” after the death of former PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico on a snorkeling trip near Stingray City.

The 71-year-old business leader, who was a frequent visitor to Cayman and used to own a home at Cayman Kai, died in hospital Wednesday afternoon after getting into difficulties while snorkeling close to the North Sound sandbar.

Mr. Enrico, who served for 12 years as board chairman of animation movie studio DreamWorks, was hailed internationally for transforming Pepsi into a pop-culture leader that challenged the supremacy of Coca Cola through innovative ad campaigns and sponsorship deals with pop icons like Michael Jackson and Madonna.

He was involved in the Grand Cayman hotel the Comfort Suites from its inception, and remained good friends with owner Burns Rutty and his family.

“He was one of the kindest, most generous people that you could ever come across in life,” Mr. Rutty’s son Gary said Thursday. “He was one of the brightest people I have ever met. He was a wonderful, wonderful man.

“He was Google before the Internet was invented. He was a wealth of information. I can’t say enough good words about him. He was a friend to me and to my family, he was a genuine guy, an icon and someone we all looked up to.”

Mr. Enrico was visiting the Cayman Islands with his son Aaron and a large group of other families, Mr. Rutty said. He was passionate about scuba diving and had just joined his eldest grandson on his first dive in Cayman earlier this week.

PepsiCo CEO and Chairwoman Indra Nooyi said Mr. Enrico was a role model and mentor and would be sorely missed.

“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,” she said in a statement.

Peter Foulds, a former colleague at Pepsi who also owned a home on island, said they had both been introduced to the island and to scuba diving by fellow Pepsi executive, the late Alan Pottasch, who owned a home in East End.

Mr. Foulds said Mr. Enrico had owned and redeveloped a home at Cayman Kai. He sold it several years ago but continued to visit Cayman.

“He was an incredible leader, very tough but always fair and a great guy to be around,” he said. “I was shocked and sad to hear about his death.”

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said he was saddened to hear of Mr. Enrico’s death, and expressed condolences to his family.

“I met Mr. Enrico when he visited Cayman Brac to go scuba diving. He was a great friend of the Cayman Islands and I am very sorry to hear of his loss,” he said.

According to advertising industry magazine AdWeek, Mr. Enrico joined Pepsi in 1972 after serving in the army during the Vietnam War, and rose through the ranks to become CEO of beverages in 1983.

He is credited with helping Pepsi compete with its chief rival Coca-Cola by developing the “Pepsi Challenge,” a blind taste test in which the majority of people preferred Pepsi to Coke.

“He later signed Jackson and launched iconic campaigns starring The King of Pop along with Madonna, Cindy Crawford and more,” according to the magazine.

PepsiCo CEO Ms. Nooyi said in her 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.”

A Royal Cayman Islands Police Service spokesperson said police scrambled a helicopter and the marine unit boat Tornado to the scene after a 911 distress call from a private boat just before 2 p.m.

An RCIPS spokesperson said the victim had encountered difficulties while snorkeling and was receiving CPR from people on the boat when police arrived. He was taken to a waiting ambulance at George Town Yacht Club by the marine unit, and was pronounced dead at the Cayman Islands Hospital just after 3 p.m.