Coca-Cola to elevate operating chief to CEO job

Muhtar Kent, chief executive officer of The Coca-Cola Company, will step down from his position and hand over the reins to top lieutenant James Quincey.
Muhtar Kent, chief executive officer of The Coca-Cola Company, will step down from his position and hand over the reins to top lieutenant James Quincey.PHOTO: AFP

WSHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - Coca-Cola chief executive officer Muhtar Kent will step down next year, handing the reins to top lieutenant James Quincey.

Mr Quincey, currently Coca-Cola's chief operating officer, will assume the CEO role on May 1, the Atlanta-based company said in a statement Friday.

The move comes as Coca-Cola and rival PepsiCo face a rising trend of soda taxes in some key markets, including major US cities and Mexico. Soda sales have sagged, especially in Coca-Cola's home market.

The soda companies have compensated for these trends by boosting sales for water and other non-carbonated drinks and, in PepsiCo's case, boosting sales of snacks.

Mr Kent will remain chairman of the board.

Mr Quincey's background includes extensive experience in Latin America and Northwest Europe. His promotion was praised by Warren Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, a Coca-Cola shareholder.

"Muhtar has been an excellent steward of Coca-Cola's business over the last eight years and I am thankful for the leadership he has provided," Mr Buffett said in the statement. "I know James and like him, and believe the company has made a smart investment in its future with his selection."

Coca-Cola rose 1.2 per cent to US$41.49 (S$58.86) in pre-market trading.