Coke’s Chuck Fruit Dies at 61

NEW YORK Charles B. “Chuck” Fruit, the former chief marketing officer at Coca-Cola, has died, the company confirmed today.

Fruit, 61, joined Coke in 1991 as head of global media services after holding titles at Anheuser-Busch and various advertising agencies.

The company promoted him to CMO in June 2004 to replace Daniel Palumbo.

Fruit served as chief marketer until late 2005, when Coke said it was eliminating the role. (The company revived the title when it hired Joe Tripodi as CMO last year.)

Most recently, Fruit held the title of senior advisor, marketing strategy and innovation.

Coke CEO Neville Isdell, who will step down on July 1, and COO Muhtar Kent, who will replace Isdell as CEO, released this statement: “Chuck was a champion of the Coca-Cola Co. and all of the marketers who breathe life into our brands. He was recognized around the world as a media and sports marketing visionary. And in an industry often characterized by sharp elbows and pointed tongues, he was universally regarded as kind and thoughtful, as well as the consummate gentleman and professional.”

Fruit died of a heart attack following a morning swim, according to the company.