ATLANTA — Muhtar Kent is stepping down as chief executive officer of Coca-Cola Co. and will be succeeded by James Quincey, president and chief operating officer.
Coca-Cola said Friday that plans call for Quincey to take the CEO reins from Kent on May 1. Kent, who has led the company as chief executive since 2008, will remain chairman. Quincey, who joined Coca-Cola in 1996, has been president and COO since August 2015.
Quincey commented that he is “truly honored and humbled” by the opportunity to lead the company.
“Muhtar has been a catalyst for change at The Coca-Cola Co., driving the transformation of our global bottling system, expanding our product portfolio and making sustainability a business imperative,” Quincey said in a statement. “I am committed to continuing my strong partnership with Muhtar, our talented management team and associates, and our valued bottling partners to continue this momentum and capture the enormous opportunities in front of us.”
Under Quincey’s leadership, the Europe Group was Coca-Cola’s most profitable operating group, the company noted. He led the strategic expansion of the brand portfolio and improved execution across the geography.
From 2005 to 2008, Quincey was president of the Mexico Division. During his tenure in Mexico, he grew market share for brand Coca-Cola and expanded the company’s portfolio with the relaunch of Coca-Cola Zero and the acquisition of Jugos de Valle, one of the company’s 20 brands that generates more than a $1 billion in annual revenues and is now sold in 16 countries.
“Managing The Coca-Cola Co. to ensure our long-term growth requires a thoughtful and orderly succession planning process,” Kent stated. “I have been engaged with our management development committee and the full board on talent development and succession discussions throughout my tenure as CEO. We are certain that James Quincey is prepared for these new responsibilities and is the absolute right choice to lead our company and system into the future.”
Kent noted that he has worked closely with Quincey over the past decade. “I know that his vast industry knowledge, expertise with our brands, values and system, coupled with an acute understanding of evolving consumer tastes, make him the ideal candidate to effectively lead our company and bottling system. James has the strategic vision and inspirational leadership to usher in the next phase of growth for our great business.”
Under Kent’s tenure, Coca-Cola has expanded the number of brands by about 1,000 products and unveiled a bottler refranchising plan.
“It has been the most wonderful and unique privilege to serve as chairman and CEO of our great company over the past eight years,” Kent commented. “This transition comes at a time of important evolution for The Coca-Cola Co. Our journey to refocus on our core business model of building strong global brands, enhancing sustainable customer value and leading a strong, dedicated franchise system is well under way. During James’ time as president and COO, he has further demonstrated his deep understanding of the dynamics of our business and what it takes to win in the marketplace.”
Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and a longtime Coca-Cola shareholder, praised Kent’s leadership. “As chairman and CEO, Muhtar has been an excellent steward of Coca-Cola’s business over the last eight years, and I am thankful for the leadership he has provided to put in place the right vision, strategy and thoughtful succession plan for long-term success,” Buffett said in a statement. “I know James and like him, and I believe the company has made a smart investment in its future with his selection.”