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Tuesday, 7 December, 1999, 10:29 GMT
Aussie to take Coke helm
Douglas Daft Long time Coke exec Douglas Daft is to take the helm


The Australians are taking the helm at another of America's giant corporations.

Ford's antipodean chairman Jac Nasser is already well settled in the driving seat of the global car maker.


Australians are not seen as 'global imperialists'
Industry analyst
Now Coca-Cola has brought the troubled reign of Douglas Ivester to an end after less than three years - and placed its future in the hands of Australian Douglas Daft.

They now head the list of Aussie chief execs in the US - if News Corporation's chief Rupert Murdoch's American citizenship rules him out.

The decision to appoint Coke's first non-American chief would have additional benefits on the world stage with Australians not seen as 'global imperialists', according to one analyst.

Mr Ivester's decision to retire 13 years early at Coke came as a total surprise to analysts, staff and stock holders, despite the turbulent nature of his reign.

French Orangina rebuff

Coke's previous chief had been at the helm for 16 years, and Mr Ivester had been expected to see the group through well into the next century.

His two-and- a-half-year turn coincided with a product contamination scare in Europe, a racial discrimination lawsuit and a flagging share price.

Douglas Iversen Retiring Coke chief Douglas Iversen
"After extensive reflection and thought, I have concluded that it is time for me to move on to the next stage of my life," said the 52-year-old.

The resignation came less than two weeks after the French government rebuffed Coca-Cola's $733m bid for Pernod-Ricard's Orangina drink brand for competitive reasons.

Coke said it accepted the resignation "reluctantly" but the timing of the announcement so soon after the failed Orangina bid has led to speculation that pressure from inside the company or from discontented shareholders had prompted a change.

Viewed as a "nuts-and-bolts, day-to-day operations" leader, Mr Ivester took over the reins of Coca-Cola in 1997 after the death of longtime chief exec Roberto Goizueta, who was credited with much of the company's rapid growth.

Radical change unlikely

Bu his leadership hit a low point last summer after a contamination scare hit Europe, damaging sales and the brand's reputation.

Coca-Cola traced the problem to a bad batch of carbon dioxide in Belgium and a foul odour from a chemical substance used on storage pallets at a cannery in France.

Mr Ivester also struggled to successfully fuel Coca-Cola's quest for further global dominance.

A plan to acquire Cadbury-Schweppes' non- North American assets was drastically curtailed after the deal ran into regulatory trouble across the globe.

Originally valued at more than $1bn the deal was scaled back and closed in July with Coca-Cola paying Cadbury $705m for assets in 155 countries.

Analysts said it was unlikely Mr Ivester's successor would radically alter the company's ambitious growth strategy.

Mr Daft will take up the post in April next year.

More of a back-slapper

He began his career at Coca-Cola in 1969 in Australia, and is considered to have a broad knowledge of emerging markets, particularly in key growth markets in Asia.

For much of his career, Mr Daft served in planning, marketing and operations positions in the region.

"Daft is considered somewhat more diplomatic than Ivester - more of a back-slapper," said one analyst who wished to remain unnamed.

By reputation a highly logical executive with a hands-on manner, Ivester was hired away from the accounting firm Ernst & Whinney in the 1970s by his predecessor.

He was Coke's chief operating officer when Mr Goizueta died of lung cancer in October 1997.
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See also:
16 Jun 99 |  The Company File
European warning over Coca-Cola
25 Oct 99 |  The Company File
Nasser - the informal approach
24 May 99 |  The Company File
Cadbury-Schweppes waters down Coca-Cola deal
17 Aug 99 |  The Company File
Coke's contamination story 'highly unlikely'
22 Jul 99 |  The Company File
Coca-Cola premises raided

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