Coca-Cola names executive to newly created No. 2 position; CEO dismisses succession talk

MarketsAssociated Press

Coca-Cola said Thursday it named company veteran James Quincey as president and chief operating officer, creating a new No. 2 position in its chain of command.

The world's largest beverage company says Quincey's appointment is effective immediately and that he will report directly to CEO Muhtar Kent. The appointment raised speculation that Quincey is being set up to succeed Kent.

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In a call with reporters, Kent said it would be "inappropriate to speculate on CEO succession." Kent has been CEO since 2008, and chairman since 2009. He is 62.

The appointment means Coca-Cola's operating groups will now report to Quincey, rather than Kent. Kent said that will free him up to focus on the company's long-term strategy.

Coca-Cola Co., which makes drinks including Sprite, Powerade and Dasani, has been slashing costs as it faces sales struggles and says it's in a transitional period. As people have turned away from traditional sodas in North America, the company has regrouped to lessen its focus on merely pushing up sales volume. Instead, Coca-Cola is now putting marketing behind smaller bottles and cans that may not drive up volume, but fetch more money per ounce. The company also positions them as a way to enjoy its drinks, without feeling guilty about guzzling too much sugar.

On Thursday, the company also said that the president of Coca-Cola International, Ahmet Bozer, will retire in March and that his position will not be refilled. Bozer, 55, joined the company in 1990 as a financial control manager and has been seen as a potential successor to Kent.

Kent said the retirement was Bozer's decision.

Quincey, 50, had been reporting to Bozer as president of the company's Europe group. He is moving to Atlanta from London for his new role.

Ali Dibadj, a senior analyst with Bernstein, said he believes Quincey's appointment sets up a succession plan, but that it doesn't necessarily suggest that Kent will be leaving shortly.

"Change at Coca-Cola is not necessarily a bad thing," Dibadj said, noting the appointment was a surprise to many.


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