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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK
Coke appoints new chief executive
Coke cans
Mr Isdell certainly knows the product after 30 years service
Coca-Cola has announced that Irishman E Neville Isdell will be its new chief executive and chairman.

The 60-year-old, who left the drinks giant in 1998 after 30 years service, replaces the outgoing Doug Daft.

Cola-Cola said Mr Isdell was the "ideal candidate" because he had "a deep prior knowledge of our brand, our values, and our system."

However, investors were not initially convinced and the share price ended Tuesday down 35 cents to $50.27.

Mr Daft first announced in February that he would be retiring, and Coca-Cola said he would now be working with Mr Isdell to ensure an effective transition by the summer.

Company man

"During this thorough search process, we have been privileged to meet with a number of outstanding and talented leaders," said director Donald Keough, who led Coca-Cola's search team.

"As a result of this process, we concluded that our ideal candidate was an executive who combined a deep prior knowledge of our brand, our values, and our system."

Mr Isdell started with Coca-Cola in Zambia in 1966, before moving on to South Africa, Australia and the Philippines.

In 1985 he was named president of the company's Central European Division and restructured the German bottling system to 30 franchises from 106 in just over three years.

Analyst were divided on the announcement of Mr Isdell's appointment.

Well respected

"He knows it backward, forward, inside out," said Manny Goldman of Goldman Consulting Services.

"He's been with Coca-Cola, he's run bottling operations.

"The thing that he has, too, he has great people skills. He has good business sense also."

Yet Robert Van Brugge, an analyst at Bernstein, said the appointment was surprising.

"I thought that by looking outside the company they were essentially saying they needed a change agent," he said.

"And I think that by first bringing Don Keough on the board and then choosing a Coke veteran signals that they're not really changing the corporate culture."

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