Isdell to Succeed Daft as Coke CEO

NEW YORK E. Neville Isdell has been named chairman and chief executive of Coca-Cola, the company said on Tuesday. Isdell will succeed Doug Daft, who announced his intention to retire from Coke in February.

The company’s board of directors selected Isdell after several high-profile executives from outside Coca-Cola publicly took themselves out of the running in recent weeks. Isdell begins his new job in “early summer,” Coke said.

Coke president and COO Steve Heyer was the only internal candidate and sources have said he would leave the company this year if he didn’t get the top job. Heyer could not be reached for comment. A Coke representative declined to comment on Heyer’s future.

Although Isdell, 60, hasn’t worked at Coke since 1998, he is a company veteran, having joined in 1966. He has held various regional management positions, responsible at times for areas such as Australia, Central Europe, Northeast Europe, the Philippines, the Middle East and Africa. Most recently he served as president of his own private investment company.

In a statement, board member Don Keough said, “As a result of this process, we concluded that our ideal candidate was an executive who combined a deep prior knowledge of our brand, our values and our system. Within this field of highly accomplished executives, Neville Isdell possesses the unique talents and experience to lead this great company.”

Daft said in a statement that “Neville’s deep knowledge of our global business and system will serve him extremely well as he takes over the reins of our company and moves our business forward.”

After he left Coke six years ago, Isdell, an Irish citizen, joined Coca-Cola Beverages as chairman and took the company public. Two years later, he steered the merger of that firm with Hellenic Bottling Co. to form Coca-Cola HBC. In 2001, he left CCHBC.

Coke spent nearly $325 million on domestic ads last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Global ad spending is estimated in the $600 million range.

Client ad agencies include Publicis Groupe’s Starcom MediaVest; WPP Group’s Berlin Cameron/Red Cell and Ogilvy & Mather; Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson and its siblings Foote Cone & Belding, The Martin Agency and Momentum; and independent shops Mother and Wieden + Kennedy.

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