From intern to CEO: Nina Leigh Krueger named first woman to lead Nestlé Purina PetCare

In the summer of 1993, in the midst of work on her MBA at WashU Olin, Nina Leigh Krueger scored a brand management internship with Nestlé Purina PetCare. After graduation, she landed a full-time job there—and she’s never looked back.

On Monday, Krueger was named the first female CEO of Nestlé Purina PetCare for the Americas after rising like a shot through the ranks of the company during her 27-year career. She assumes the post January 1.

“I truly am honored by this opportunity,” Krueger said in a statement released on Monday by the company. “I look forward to working with our Purina team to accelerate our strong momentum and to build on our more than 90-year history of making science-based dog and cat foods, treats and cat litter that pet owners trust.”

Krueger will become the company’s eighth CEO, succeeding Joseph R. Sivewright, who will become chairman. Sivewright praised Krueger in the announcement, saying, “Nina Leigh is the perfect choice to lead this company into a winning future,” he said. “She has played a vital role in our many successes during a time of great complexity in the pet care business.”

Krueger was honored as a WashU Olin distinguished alumna in 2017. In a tribute video made for her at the time, Sivewright also praised her business acumen and her business contributions, but also her respect for work-life balance in a corporate setting and family. “Nina Leigh knows how fortunate she is,” he said. “She gives back. She pays it forward.”

Krueger assumes the role after serving since 2016 as the company’s first female president. A year prior, Krueger was named chief marketing officer. Seven years after joining the company, corporate executives tapped Krueger to integrate two marketing departments when Nestlé acquired Purina in 2001.

Around the time she was named a distinguished alumna, Krueger had been credited with closing a 10-year agreement with the Westminster Kennel Club, making Purina Pro Plan the exclusive pet food sponsor for the club’s famous annual dog show—extending an agreement that began in 2012.

In an Olin Blog post in 2015, when she was named chief marketing officer, Krueger said earning her MBA gave her the skill and vision to see the big picture throughout her career.

“Olin taught me how to ask smart questions,” Krueger said at that time. “While my focus was marketing, the broad base of the program also gave me a grounding in areas like operations and accounting. I’ve discovered that leadership is not just knowing the answers. Often, it is about knowing the right questions to ask.”

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