PepsiCo Inc President John Compton is leaving the company to head truck-stop operator Pilot Flying J Oil Corp, narrowing the pool of likely candidates to become the soft drink giant's next CEO.

Zein Abdalla, president of PepsiCo Europe, will succeed Compton as president of PepsiCo, effective immediately. Enderson Guimaraes will take over from Abdalla in Europe, the company said on Tuesday.

Compton was named president in March, a move that some on Wall Street viewed as positioning him as the most likely candidate to succeed CEO Indra Nooyi.

Now, Abdalla looks like the most likely candidate, followed by Brian Cornell, head of the Americas Foods business, said Bernstein Research analyst Steve Powers. He added that the departure of Compton, who has been at PepsiCo for some 30 years, makes any immediate move by Nooyi less likely.

RETURNING SOUTH

Compton joined PepsiCo as a 21-year-old at the Pulaski, Tennessee, Frito-Lay facility. Taking the CEO job at privately held Pilot Flying J gives him the chance to return to Tennessee.

"I have deep and personal ties to Tennessee, and my family's plan all along has been to return to Tennessee at some point," Compton said in a statement. He had been based in Purchase, New York.

In running Pilot Flying J, the nation's largest truck stop operator, Compton will succeed James Haslam, who last month bought the Cleveland Browns American football team.

During Abdalla's tenure, the Europe division's revenue grew to $14 billion from $7 billion. Abdalla also helped PepsiCo become the largest food and beverage company in Russia, PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi said in a statement. He joined the company in 1995.

Guimaraes joined PepsiCo in 2011 and had been president of the global nutrition group. His successor in that role will be named shortly, PepsiCo said.

Abdalla and Guimaraes will report to Nooyi. Abdalla will be based at PepsiCo's Purchase, New York, headquarters and Guimaraes will be based in Geneva, the company said.

PepsiCo shares were unchanged in after-hours trade from their close on the New York Stock Exchange at $71.58.