DARK HORSE CANDIDATE NAMED COCA-COLA CHIEF

Former Coke Bottling Executive E. Neville Isdell Becomes Chairman-CEO

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Coca-Cola Co. today named a former senior executive as chairman-CEO, ending a flurry of speculation about who would succeed Douglas Daft, but
E. Neville Isdell, the new chairman-CEO of Coca-Cola, in an undated file photo.

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raising questions about the future of its sole internal candidate for the post.

After the stock market closed today, Coca-Cola named E. Neville Isdell, 60, chairman-CEO, following an intense three-month search. He will work with Mr. Daft to make the transition into the post by summer.

Douglas Draft
"Upon becoming chief executive in 2000, I had four key objectives: to re-establish critical relationships with our bottling partners, customers and communities everywhere, to expand the company's portfolio of beverages, to invest in our brands, and to implement a strategy for building share owner value," Mr. Daft said in a statement. "We have made significant progress in all of these areas, and Neville inherits a strong and thriving company with rock solid fundamental strengths. Neville's deep knowledge of our global business and system will serve him extremely well as he takes over the reins of our company and moves our business forward."

In a statement, Mr. Isdell said, "I am both proud and humbled to be given the opportunity to help write the next chapter in this illustrious company's history. I appreciate the importance of this position and the trust placed in me by the Board of Directors. I am excited to get started and help shape our future."

Irish citizen
A Coca-Cola executive on five continents until 1998, Mr. Isdell, an Irish citizen, most recently was CEO of Coca-Cola HBC, Hellenic Bottling Co., in Athens. The bottler was the marketer's second largest in 2000 after Mr. Isdell brokered a merger of Hellenic Bottling Co. and Coca-Cola Beverages, where he was chairman. He left the company at the end of 2001.

"During this thorough search process, we have been privileged to meet with a number of outstanding and talented leaders," Donald R. Keough, chairman of the management development committee of the board of directors, said in a statement. "As a result of this process, we concluded that our ideal candidate was an executive who combined a deep prior knowledge of our brand, our values, and our system. Within this field of highly accomplished executives, Neville Isdell possesses the unique talents and experience to lead this great company."

Dark horse candidate
Coca-Cola had been facing increasing pressure by Wall Street and its shareholders over speculation that a number of candidates for the post had turned down the position. Mr. Isdell was considered a dark horse candidate by most observers, in part because the marketer had said it had but one internal candidate, Steve Heyer, its president-chief operating officer. Mr. Isdell was the only former employee that had been identified as a contender for the job.

Zambia, Australia, Europe
Mr. Isdell joined Coca-Cola in Zambia in 1966. He held a variety of positions in South Africa, Australia and the Philippines, and in 1985 became president of the beverage giant's Central European division, based in Germany. Over three years he reduced the German bottling system to 30 franchises from 106.

He was group president for North East Europe, the Middle East and Africa from 1989 to 1998, opening new markets in India, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In 1995 he became president of the Greater Europe Group, which accounted for about a third of the company's worldwide profits. He has served on the boards of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coca-Cola Femsa and British Telecom, and remains a director of Scottish and Newcastle Breweries.

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