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Coca-Cola Elevating Operating Chief to CEO, Succeeding Kent as Consumer Tastes Change

Published on .

James Quincey, the next CEO of Coca-Cola, and Muhtar Kent, who is stepping down in 2017.
James Quincey, the next CEO of Coca-Cola, and Muhtar Kent, who is stepping down in 2017. Credit: Courtesy Coca-Cola Co.

Coca-Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent will step down in 2017 after eight years at the helm, passing the job to top lieutenant James Quincey.

Mr. Quincey, a 51-year-old who currently serves as Coca-Cola's chief operating officer, will assume the CEO role on May 1, the Atlanta-based company said in a statement Friday. Mr. Kent, who turns 65 next year, will remain chairman.

The move will put the London-born executive in charge of the world's largest soft-drink company at a time when it's adapting to shifting consumer tastes. Many consumers in the U.S. and other developed countries are shying away from sugary beverages, putting pressure on Coca-Cola to diversify its lineup. During his two decades at the company, Mr. Quincey helped introduce smaller package sizes and other initiatives to cut the calories of its beverages.

The shares rose 1.1% to $41.42 at 8:58 a.m. in early trading in New York. Coca-Cola had fallen 4.6% this year through Thursday.

Warren Buffett, Coca-Cola's biggest investor, praised the incoming CEO.

"I know James and like him, and believe the company has made a smart investment in its future with his selection," Mr. Buffett said in the statement.

-- Bloomberg News

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