Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent to Step Down Next Year

NEW YORK (AP) -
Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Coca-Cola said Friday that CEO Muhtar Kent will step down as CEO next year and be replaced by Chief Operating Officer James Quincey.

The world’s largest beverage maker has been under pressure to grow as people around the world drink less soda, including its flagship Coke. In October, the Atlanta company reported that its third-quarter profit fell 28 percent.

Last year it rolled out a pricy milk drink called Fairlife that it says has more protein and less sugar than regular milk. The company also makes Sprite, Fanta and Dasani water.

The Coca Cola Company President and Chief Operating Officer James Quincey. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
Coca-Cola President and Chief Operating Officer James Quincey (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

Quincey, who was named president and COO last year, will take over as CEO on May 1. The 51-year-old has been with the beverage maker for about 20 years.

Kent, who is 64 years old, will continue as chairman of the board after he steps down as CEO. He has been CEO for more than eight years and first joined the company nearly 40 years ago.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, whose holding company Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is Coca-Cola’s largest shareholder, said he was pleased with the succession plans.

“I know James and like him, and believe the company has made a smart investment in its future with his selection,” Buffett said in a statement.

In trading around noon Friday, shares of The Coca-Cola Co. rose $1.14, or 2.8 percent, to $42.12. Its stock is down about 1.6 percent since a year ago.