Yum! Brands announced Thursday that Kimberly-Clark veteran Aaron Powell will take over as Pizza Hut’s CEO effective September 20.
Powell, the former president of Kimberly-Clark’s Asia-Pacific Consumer Business, is succeeding Artie Starr, who joined Topgolf as CEO in April. The new Pizza Hut leader will report to Yum! CEO David Gibbs and will assume global responsibility for driving growth strategies, franchise operations, and performance.
“We couldn’t be happier to welcome Aaron to the Yum! Brands and Pizza Hut family and believe this global brand division leadership structure will enable the Pizza Hut U.S. and international teams to further implement best practices worldwide and continue their growth trajectory for franchisees and shareholders,” said Gibbs in a statement. “Aaron brings more than 25 years of deep experience in the business-to-business and consumer packaged goods sectors and is known for driving break-through innovation and delivering strong performance for iconic household name brands operating in complex environments around the world.”
He enters Pizza Hut as the chain continues its long-term strategy of shifting from dine-in business to takeout and delivery. The brand’s U.S. same-store sales grew 9 percent over two years in the second quarter, and off-premises comps lifted 18 percent on a two-year stack.
Pizza Hut has also returned to unit growth. In 2020, the brand shuttered a net of 1,063 stores, but through the first half of 2021, the company has opened a net of 170 locations.
Powell has more than 14 years of experience at Kimberly-Clark in a variety of leadership roles across business-to-business and consumer operations, including corporate strategy, M&A, sales, marketing, e-commerce, and operations. As president of Kimberly-Clark’s Asia-Pacific consumer business, he was responsible for the company’s largest international region, covering more than 30 countries like Australia, China, India, and South Korea. Before that role, he spearheaded the Kimberly-Clark professional business globally, led consumer business in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and served as managing director of the consumer business in Central and Eastern Europe.
He also spent four years with Bain & Company, one of the world’s largest strategic management consulting firms, and worked eight years in sales leadership and brand management roles at Procter & Gamble. Powell holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor’s Degree from Washington University. He currently serves on the board of directors for Sherwin-Williams.
Kevin Hochman, president and chief concept officer for KFC U.S. and interim president of Pizza Hut U.S., and Vipul Chawla, president of Pizza Hut international, will report to Powell.
“The chance to join an iconic, powerhouse global brand like Pizza Hut, combined with the backing of a world-class and culture-rich company like Yum! Brands, created an opportunity I knew I had to be a part of and simply couldn’t pass up,” Powell said in a statement. “I’m excited to work with Kevin and Vipul, and can’t wait to begin working alongside and building relationships with such a talented team of employees and franchisees around the world.”