Coca-Cola president and CEO James Quincey was today named the company’s new chairman, assuming the role from his predecessor as chief executive, Muhtar Kent. Kent, a 40-year veteran of the company, will remain as chairman until April when he will formally retire following the company’s 2019 annual meeting.
Brian Smith, who was appointed as COO in October, will become president and COO effective January 1.
“One of the most important jobs of a chairman is to ensure that a strong leadership succession plan is in place,” Kent said in a press release. “I’m delighted that the board has elected James as chairman. He is the right leader to take the Coca-Cola system to the next level and through the next decade.”
Since being named CEO in May 2017, Quincey has been pushing to accelerate Coke’s transition into a “total beverage company,” expanding its reach in beverage categories outside of traditional carbonated soft drinks. This plan has included partnerships with Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s to distribute branded ready-to-drink coffee lines, acquiring a minority stake in better-for-you sports drink BodyArmor, and purchasing Costa Coffee in August for $5 billion. Last year, under Quincey’s leadership, Coke completed a nationwide refranchising of its company-owned bottlers. The company also initiated rebrands for the Coca-Cola Zero (now Coke Zero Sugar) and Diet Coke brands, resulting in a rebound for slumping sales of diet CSDs.
In addition to Kent’s retirement, the company announced Sam Nunn would not seek reelection to the board of directors, ending a 22-year tenure. Nunn, a former U.S. Senator from Georgia, spent the last five years as lead independent director. Maria Elena Lagomasino will assume the position of lead independent director. In addition to serving on the Coke board since 2008, Lagomasino is also a member of the board of The Walt Disney Co. and previously served as a director for Avon Products Inc.
“I’m honored that the board of directors has asked me to serve as chairman of the company,” Quincey said in the release. “I appreciate the years of mentorship, encouragement and insights I’ve gained from Muhtar. I also join my fellow directors in thanking Sam for his many years of service, and I look forward to working with Mel as she steps into an expanded role as lead independent director.”
Coke stock prices fell by 0.20 points at the close of the market to end the day at $49.38. The price rallied at the end of the day after initial news of Kent’s retirement sent the price as low as $48.69 around noontime.