Coca-Cola Leadership Change Could Push M&A Activity

ATLANTA — The Coca-Cola Co. has made a change at the top, with James Quincey taking the reins as president and chief operating officer.

In his new role, Quincey will be responsible for all the Atlanta-based company's operating units worldwide and report directly to Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent. The change is effective immediately.

"I am excited and honored to take on this role and look forward to partnering with Muhtar and our talented senior leadership team to deliver on our 2020 Vision and help accelerate the strategic actions we've outlined to reinvigorate growth across our company and system worldwide," Quincey said.

Quincey is a 19-year veteran of Coca-Cola and served as president of The Coca-Cola Co.'s Europe Group, which comprises 38 countries, since 2013. Under his leadership, the Europe Group — the company's most profitable operating group — strategically expanded its brand portfolio and improved execution across the geography. 

These actions helped drive solid topline growth and expanded Coca-Cola's leading market share position in total nonalcoholic ready-to-drink beverages despite the volatile and prolonged macroeconomic challenges in the region, according to the company.

He also played an instrumental role in leading the recently announced proposed merger of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Coca-Cola Iberian Partners and Coca-Cola Erfrischungsgetränke AG to form Coca-Cola European Partners Plc., in what will become the world's largest independent Coca-Cola bottler based on net revenues.

"Over nearly two decades, James has built an impressive track record of strategic, operational and commercial accomplishments. He has proven to be a successful and trusted leader and brings to this position a strong reputation for developing people and inspiring teams," Kent said. 

"His wealth of experience across our global system, particularly in Europe and Latin America, will be a valuable asset as we continue to accelerate growth through our 2020 Vision and our previously announced five strategic actions," he added. "James is emblematic of the deep bench strength we have developed at Coca-Cola, and I could not be more pleased about his appointment to this critical role at this important time."

Under the new leadership structure, Bonnie Herzog, managing director of tobacco, beverage and convenience store research at Wells Fargo Securities LLC, said she expects the presidents of all the major divisions to continue to play a key role in strategic decisions and global operations. 

In addition, by adding a management layer between Kent and the operating units, "we believe this structure will allow Kent to focus more on longer-term strategy across the entire Coke system vs. day-to-day operations," she said.

Further, given Quincey's favorable regard in the organization and relatively young age at 50 years old, Herzog said this new role potentially positions him to become Coca-Cola's next CEO.

The new leadership change could also signal more merger and acquisition activity at the beverage company. In addition to the merger that formed Coca-Cola European Partners Plc., Quincey also led the efforts behind Coca-Cola's acquisition of innocent juice in 2009 while serving as president of the Northwest Europe & Nordics Business Unit. 

Prior to that, as the president of the Mexico Division, he was instrumental in the acquisition of Jugos de Valle, one of Coca-Cola's $20-billion brands. 

"Given Quincey's global background and significant deal experience, we can't help but wonder if Coca-Cola will accelerate growth through stepped-up acquisitions," Herzog added.

Concurrent to Quincey's appointment, Ahmet Bozer, executive vice president and president of Coca-Cola International, will retire after a 25-year career in the Coca-Cola system. Bozer will stay with Coca-Cola until March, to ensure a smooth transition and serve as an adviser to Kent and the company on key strategic initiatives.

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