Former PepsiCo Chairman and CEO and soft drink industry legend Roger Enrico died Wednesday at age 71. Known and respected for his leadership at Pepsi during the height of the so-called “cola wars” with Coke, Enrico was a tough competitor who never backed down.

Roger Enrico

This ad published in The New York Times as a tribute to Enrico from the people of Coca-Cola.

“Roger was a fierce competitor and a passionate ambassador and champion for his company and our industry,” Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent said. “All of us at Coca-Cola offer our deepest condolences to Roger’s family and the PepsiCo family during this time of sadness and loss. Roger was not only an innovative marketer and inspirational leader but a true friend who challenged us all to compete harder and think bigger. I consider myself fortunate and honored to call him a friend since we met in 1990. We will all miss Roger dearly in every respect.”

After serving in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam and a short stint at General Mills, Enrico began his distinguished PepsiCo career in 1971 when he became a brand manager for Frito-Lay. He went on to lead Pepsi’s U.S. beverage business during the critical period in the mid-1980s when Coca-Cola introduced “New Coke” and 79 days later reintroduced Coca-Cola Classic amid consumer backlash. At the time, Enrico memorably declared, “The other guy just blinked.”

Enrico ultimately served as PepsiCo’s CEO from 1996-2001 and as chairman from 2001-2003.

Enrico was known for his passion, for his inspiring leadership and for encouraging his colleagues to be visionary. Asked about his leadership legacy in a 2003 interview with Business Week, he said that “if at the end of the day, people who worked with me could think of me as someone who helped people to see things in ways they hadn't seen them before, that would be great. That would be enough for me.”

After retiring from PepsiCo, Enrico served as chairman of the board for Dreamworks Animation and was a board member of the National Geographic Society, The Environmental Defense Fund and the American Film Institute.