Dec 13 The surprise departure of a potential
Coca-Cola Co chief executive has put the global chief
customer officer in contention to eventually succeed CEO Muhtar
The world's largest beverage company said on Thursday that
Steve Cahillane, head of all Coca-Cola operations in the
Americas, would leave the company as part of a major
That has put Sandy Douglas, a previous head of the North
American operation and currently global chief customer officer,
in the running for the top job when 61-year-old Kent retires,
A chief customer officer typically runs strategy to maximize
customer acquisition, retention and profitability.
Coke said it would split its North American businesses into
separate units - one for bottling and another for branding and
marketing, the latter headed by Douglas.
Cahillane has long been considered Kent's heir apparent.
Coke said only that he was leaving to "pursue other
"We have previously believed Cahillane to be a strong
CEO-successor, but given the sudden and unexpected nature of his
departure announcement, we can't help but wonder what
happened?," Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog wrote in a note.
Cahillane joined Coke from Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc
when the company bought CCE's North American operations in 2010
and created the Coca-Cola Refreshments division.
Coca-Cola Enterprises, now Coke's bottler in Western Europe,
was Coke's main U.S. bottler at the time.
He became head of Coca-Cola Americas, the company's North
American and Latin American operations, in 2012.
"Under Steve's leadership, our North America business
delivered several consecutive quarters of volume and value share
gains, despite operating in a very difficult economic
environment the past three years," Kent said in a statement.
Coca-Cola generates almost 60 percent of its revenue from
international markets and nearly 70 percent from soft drinks.
But in the United States, soda sales have been declining for
years as customers choose healthier options such as fruit juices
and organic milk.
Coke brands include Dasani mineral water and Minute Maid
juices but it faces much more competition in these markets.
The company said its Coca-Cola Refreshments bottling
business will become part of the Bottling Investment Group
(BIG), which houses the company's bottling operations outside
North America. It will be headed by Paul Mulligan, who has been
the regional director of BIG in Japan and Latin America.
The company's Latin American operations will be merged with
its international operations.
JP Morgan analyst John Faucher said the implications of
Coke's management shake-up and organizational changes were
difficult to assess and he kept his "neutral" rating on the
Coca-Cola's shares were up 0.6 percent at $39.43 in midday
trading. They have risen 9 percent this year, underperforming
the broader S&P 500, which has risen 24.5 percent.