Mary Minnick Quits Coke

Beverage Spectrum Editor

The Coca-Cola Co. has announced that Mary Minnick, who was appointed President of Marketing, Strategy, and Innovation in 2005, will be leaving the firm to pursue opportunities in the UK., according to a memorandum circulated to employees today.

The memo, issued by Coke Chairman and CEO Neville Isdell, is a confirmation of a move that many observers expected following the elevation of Muhtar Kent to the position of COO earlier this year. In that position, he is considered the executive best-positioned to replace Isdell when he steps down.

At least one Wall Street analyst, Kaumil Gajrawala of UBS, looked askance at the company following the loss Minnick. The highly-regarded “innovation czar” had been expected to leverage her experience developing a wide variety of Coke products for Japanese and other Asian markets into a much-needed shot in the arm for the creatively moribund mother company.

“We view Minnick’s departure negatively,” Gajrawala wrote in a note to investors, “Given her role as a ‘change agent’ within KO and her success building a diverse, high-growth portfolio in Asia, particularly in Japan.”

Minnick, who had been with the company for 23 years, took on her latest role in March, 2005. Her hiring was widely interpreted as heralding a commitment to marketing leadership and new product introduction..

Since that time, Coke has introduced a broad variety of energy, tea and low-calorie products, but the company’s thunder has nevertheless been stolen by rival PepsiCo, which has seen its stock soar on a broad-based beverage platform that downplays carbonated beverages.