Coke Upheaval: New Honcho Leapfrogs Marketing Bosses

24 March 2005

In a major management restructure long promised by Coca-Cola chairman/ceo Neville Isdell, the global beverages giant announced Wednesday that Asia group president Mary Minnick has leapfrogged over the backs of chief marketing officer Chuck Fruit and chief innovation/research and development officer Danny Strickland.

Minnick's promotion to president and chief operating officer fills the gap left after last year's flounce-out by Steven Heyer, apparently piqued at Isdell's appointment to the top job. Fruit, Strickland and an (as yet unnamed) head of strategic growth will report directly to her.

Coca-Cola also announced plans to revamp its European group structure under Dominique Reiniche, former president of Coca-Cola Enterprises Europe.

Makeovers are also planned for Coke's edifices in North Asia, Eurasia and the Middle East, while a new group - Southeast Asia and Pacific Rim - will be created.

Analysts reacted to the moves with a mix of caution and approval, UBS hailing the restructure as "the first positive fundamental change in the Coke story." But, added its research note: "That said, we still believe change takes time and see a good nine to twelve months before improving fundamentals are represented in earnings per share."

Smith Barney also counselled circumspection: "We continue to believe 2005 will be a 'reset' year and are therefore not recommending new money into the name until we get more evidence that Coca-Cola is delivering on its promises throughout the world."

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff