Coca-Cola Co.'s hesitation to name Mr. Heyer, currently president-chief operating officer, as its next CEO could put the brash-but-well-regarded executive in play, making him vulnerable to offers from other companies and a juicy target for headhunters.
"If he doesn't get this job, he's going to be sitting on everybody's list," said one executive with ties to Mr. Heyer. One recruiter declined to comment on where Mr. Heyer might land if he doesn't ascend to the top spot at Coke, but added, "I ought to give him a call."
Many believe the former president of Turner Broadcasting System and Y&R Advertising-who cut his teeth as a media consultant at Booz, Allen & Hamilton-is most appealing to media companies.
But because of his hard-charging, no-nonsense style, imposing intellect and unorthodox mind-set, those who know Mr. Heyer said few companies would be as appealing to him as Coca-Cola. "Everything else seems like a step down," said an executive close to the marketer.
`the disney rumor'
Mr. Heyer, who declined to be interviewed, has long been rumored as a possible successor to the embattled CEO of Walt Disney Co., Michael Eisner, although the possibility of Disney being acquired by Comcast clouds that situation. "Everybody at Coke knows about the Disney rumor," said the executive close to Mr. Heyer.
Others said Mr. Heyer could be a good fit in the corporate suites of a tech company such as Pixar or even Apple Computer, both run by Steve Jobs, or Microsoft, where strong opinions and rugged individualism rules. "He belongs in a culture that's much more individualistic," said another executive.
A former colleague of Mr. Heyer also cited NBC parent General Electric Co., and compared Mr. Heyer to legendary former GE Chairman Jack Welch, saying that Mr. Heyer "challenges you until your brain hurts, and he challenged me more than anyone else in 15 years."