Activist: Pepsi CEO has made a ‘major mistake’

May 15, 2014, 1:43 PM UTC

FORTUNE — The battle between Pepsi and famed investor Nelson Peltz is fizzing over.

Ed Garden, the chief investment officer of Peltz’s Trian Fund management, says Pepsi’s CEO Indra Nooyi has mismanaged the company and had built a “culture of sycophants.”

“What they need are honest, dynamic managers,” says Garden. “Instead they have a spin-machine.”

Peltz got interested in Pepsi (PEP) about a year ago, and his firm now owns just under 1% percent of the company, worth around $1 billion. Earlier this year, he proposed a plan to break up Pepsi by splitting up its beverage and snack divisions. Pepsi rejected the plan a little over a month ago. Peltz has since fired back that they didn’t give his idea enough thought.

Now it appears Peltz is going on the attack against Nooyi. On Wednesday, speaking at the SALT hedge fund conference in Las Vegas, Garden said Nooyi is “suffocating” the company. Trian’s main beef is that Pepsi spends $1.1 billion a year on management. Garden said that is mostly corporate waste. Breaking up the company would bring back focus and lower costs, he says.

More: Falling soda sales: Not a trend, but a fundamental shift

Many Pepsi defenders think Nooyi has done a good job. The stock is up 5% this year, which is better than the market. In its most recent quarter, Pepsi’s profits were up 13%. Still, that doesn’t seem to be enough to satisfy Peltz, who appears to be looking for a change at the top.

“The current CEO has made a major mistake,” says Garden. “She’s built a huge bureaucracy.”