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Veteran Coke Exec Retires Amid Management Shuffle

Personnel: Analysts say changes signal an attempt to correct sluggish sales and operations.

July 31, 2001|JUSTIN BACHMAN | ASSOCIATED PRESS

ATLANTA — Coca-Cola Co.'s leadership shuffle continued Monday as the company announced that Charles S. Frenette--a 27-year veteran who most recently led Coke's Europe/Africa Group--had retired. The company also said it has promoted two other executives and hired one from Eastman Kodak Co.

Frenette's departure, effective immediately, comes a week after Chairman and Chief Executive Douglas N. Daft tapped former company executive Brian Dyson, 65, as his chief operating officer and vice chairman.

Coke also said it would split the European and African operations.

Analysts saw the announcement as yet another sign that Daft's management team--and its persistent struggle to correct sluggish Coke sales and operations--remains a work in progress.

"We view the constant game of musical chairs at Coke as disruptive and continuing to prolong the return to consistent performance with consistent execution and marketing programs," Sanford Bernstein analyst Bill Pecoriello wrote in a note to clients.

Coke spokesman Ben Deutsch called the shuffling "a slight refinement" that does not fundamentally alter the structure Daft announced in March, when he organized Coke's business into four broad divisions. Daft and Dyson were unavailable for comment Monday.

"We believe that we have our senior management team in place," Deutsch said. "However, we will always make whatever necessary adjustments are required to meet our business needs."

A.R.C. "Sandy" Allan, currently president and chief operating officer of the beverage giant's Asia Group, will run the Europe, Eurasia and Middle East Group. Alexander B. Cummings Jr. will continue as president of the Africa Group.

Coke also promoted Mary E. Minnick, president of the company's Japanese operations, to president and chief operating officer of Asia. Minnick's position makes her the highest-ranking female executive in Coke's history, Deutsch said.

James E. Chestnut, 51, executive vice president of operations support and Coke's former chief financial officer, will become head of the company's Pacific Rim Group. Patrick Siewert, president of Kodak Professional, will direct Coke's East and South Asia Group. He joins Coke Sept. 1.

The changes are the latest in what has become regular leadership change under Daft.

In March, former President Jack Stahl, a 20-year Coke veteran, resigned after another executive shake-up effectively eliminated his position. Days later, Coke hired former Turner Broadcasting President Steven J. Heyer to lead its new ventures division.

Frenette, 48, was named to the post in March and had served as chief marketing officer from 1998 to 2000.

Coke insiders said his departure was not a sign that he was being blamed for the company's woeful performance in Germany, its largest European market.

Coke shares fell 53 cents to close at $44.26 on the New York Stock Exchange. The company's stock has fallen more than 26% since January.

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