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PepsiCo Slips as Nelson Peltz Heads for the Exits

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Private-equity investor Nelson Peltz, the architect of many high-profile corporate mergers and breakups.Photograph by Heidi Gutman — NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

PepsiCo (PEP) shares slid Friday on news Trian Fund Management has sold its 18.3 million shares in the company, according to a regulatory filing. Trian’s Nelson Peltz liquidated his stake, which was worth $1.83 billion on Dec. 31, 2015, within the first three months of 2016. When Neltz first disclosed the stake in April 2013, it was worth $269 million.

No CEO likes to see their stock fall but PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi may be breathing a sigh of relief. For several years, Trian’s Peltz and PepsiCo’s management engaged in a public battle over how the company should be managed. Peltz aggressively campaigned for PepsiCo to undo its merger between Pepsi and Frito-Lay, saying investors would benefit from splitting the faster growing snack business from the lagging soda sector. PepsiCo and Nooyi strongly opposed the strategy, fended off a potential proxy war, and managed to persevere by moving beyond unhealthy snacks and drinks. More recently, the company’s beverage volume rose 3% year-over-year for the first quarter of 2016, its fastest rate in three years.

In an interview with Fortune‘s Jennifer Reingold a year ago, Nooyi succinctly described her feelings about Peltz’s role in the company: “To be honest, we don’t need activists to tell us what to do.”

As Reingold reported, Nooyi managed to largely fend Peltz off with a compromise: In 2015, the two sides agreed on a “neutral” nominee to the board, former Heinz CEO Bill Johnson, an adviser to Peltz’s Trian Partners.

Since hiring intermediaries, the aggression in Peltz and Nooyi’s relationship seems to have dissipated. Peltz’s heavy pressure on the company also did likely accelerate the company’s recovery, analysts say, thanks to more marketing strategies to encourage consumers to buy snacks and drinks at the same time—ironically tying Frito-Lay and Pepsi closer together.

Trian representatives provided the following statement to Fortune:

“In March 2016, Trian sold its stake in PepsiCo, which it held for over three years. Trian believes PepsiCo has addressed many operational issues identified by Trian – management has increased productivity efforts, reduced overhead, increased advertising investment, and delivered consistent earnings growth on a constant currency basis. The market has viewed these developments positively and PepsiCo currently trades at a substantially higher multiple than at the time of Trian’s initial investment in late 2012. Trian wishes PepsiCo’s management every success.”

Peltz still holds 48 million shares of Mondelez International (MDLZ) (which he once proposed combining with Frito-Lay), and 40.8 million shares of Wendy’s (WEN). Peltz also still owns 20.5 million shares in DuPont (DD), a company in which he lost a proxy war in 2015. (Read: How DuPont Went to War With Activist Investor Nelson Peltz)

Shares of Pepsi fell 1.8% Friday in reaction to Peltz’s disclosure. The stock has risen 8.2% over the past 12 months.