Published on: May 5, 2004After a long and likely uncomfortably public search process, the Coca-Cola Co. has announced that E. Neville Isdell, who spent 35 years with the company until being passed over for the CEO job in 2001, will return to Atlanta as CEO when Douglas Daft retires this summer.
Isdell left the company when Daft got the top job, but told the New York Times that he was not bitter. "I've been outside the system for two years," he said, "and that has made me far better prepared to lead this company than I was in the past.''
Donald R. Keough, the Coke director who headed the search committee, told the NYT that Isdell always was the front-runner. "He was the first outside candidate we talked to,'' he said, "and the only one who was offered the job."
That may be, but there have been numerous press reports over the past few weeks about top industry names who were either being considered or who took themselves out of the running. Gillette’s James M. Kilts, Kellogg’s Carlos M. Gutierrez, and Mattel’s Robert A. Eckert all were mentioned as possible successors to Daft, but none of the apparently wanted the job.
There was one internal candidate, Steven J. Heyer, the president of the company who many assumed was being groomed as Daft’s successor. But he didn’t get the top job either.
- KC's View:
- The analysts we’re reading say that despite all sorts of investigations, Coke is in good financial shape and has made the cuts it needs to make to be more efficient. The biggest challenge for Isdell likely will be to position the company in the anti-obesity continuum, figuring out how to better appeal to a population that is becoming increasingly weight-conscious. The company’s new mid-calorie C2 soft drink is a start, but PepsiCo certainly seems to have been more aggressive in this segment.
PepsiCo’s Brock Leach told obesity Learning Lab attendees at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Show yesterday that virtually all the company’s growth was coming from “better for you” and “good for you” products…which is a remarkable trend.