Aramark Corp., one of Philadelphia's largest companies, has hired a former PepsiCo executive to succeed longtime chief executive Joseph Neubauer.
Eric J. Foss joined the privately held food-services and facilities-management giant as its new president and CEO Tuesday. Foss, 53, retired as CEO of Pepsi Beverages Co., a $20 billion division of the soft-drink maker, on Dec. 9.
That makes the CEO succession at Aramark something of Pepsi generation phenomenon. The 70-year-old Neubauer had held several senior positions at PepsiCo in the 1970s, including the head of its Wilson Sports Goods division before joining what was then called ARA Services at its chief financial officer in 1979.
Neubauer, who had been CEO of Aramark since 1983 — except for a nine-month period in 2004 — will remain chairman of the board of the global firm based at 11th and Market Streets.
Aramark is far bigger now than when Neubauer first arrived at the company. with revenues growing from $2.5 billion in 1979 to $13.1 billion in its most recent fiscal year.
In an interview, Neubauer said the process that led to Foss' hiring began about 12 months ago. Neubauer will remain one of the largest shareholders of Aramark, which has been a privately held company during much of his 29 years as CEO.
Neubauer, who is well-known in the Philadelphia region for his philanthropy — including the effort that led to the Barnes Foundation moving from Merion into a new museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway — led a management-led buyout of then-public ARA Services in 1984. During his tenure, the company acquired many uniform-rental firms and food-service competitors, domestically and internationally.
Aramark went public in 2001, but five years later, Neubauer led another buyout to take the company private again. In the interview, he said there are no plans to change the current ownership structure of one of Philadelphia's few Fortune 500 companies.
Asked about some of the highlights of his career, Neubauer said that he's proud that Aramark has become a company that people want to work for and where they can "change their life's trajectory."
Foss said Aramark is a business that has "great growth potential." He said he plans to go on a "listening tour" over the next 90 to 120 days to meet with customers, suppliers, managers and employees and ask them lots of questions.
Quoting Yogi Berra, Foss said, "You can observe a lot by watching."