Sector News

Coca-Cola Continues Push to Refresh Board

December 12, 2014
Food & Drink
(Dow Jones Business News) – Coca-Cola Co. plans to add Marc Bolland and David Weinberg, the chief executives of Marks & Spencer Group and Judd Enterprises Inc., as directors in February, part of its push to refresh its aging board.
 
Mr. Bolland, 55, has been CEO at British retailer Marks & Spencer since 2010, and previously worked at Heineken International NV and the supermarket chain Morrisons.
 
Mr. Weinberg, 62, is president of the early-stage technology investment firm Digital BandWidth LLC, in addition to being chief executive of Judd Enterprises, a private investment-management office.
 
The appointments will bring the size of the board to 17 directors.
 
Coca-Cola’s board has been transforming since early last year, when veteran Coke directors Donald Keough and James Williams retired. The board is one of the most powerful in the country, but also one of the oldest.
 
Ahead of those retirements last year, Coke directors were on average 67 years old, higher than the average of 62.6 years at companies in the Standard Poor’s 500-stock index, according to recruiting firm Spencer Stuart.
 
But the company is starting to change that.
 
Other Coke directors in their 70s are expected to step down by 2015, and The Wall Street Journal has reported Coke is recruiting people in their 50s, “who they want to get 20 years from,” according to people familiar with the matter.
 
“Marc has extensive international experience in growing global consumer brands, as well as significant retail expertise,” Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent said in a release. “And David’s deep financial expertise, experience with regulatory requirements and entrepreneurial background will be valuable for our board.”
 
In addition to Mr. Bolland and Mr. Weinberg, other younger voices have joined in recent years. Robert Kotick, the 51-year-old CEO of entertainment company Activision Blizzard Inc. joined in 2012. Evan Greenberg, the 59-year-old CEO of insurer ACE Ltd., has been a director since 2011.
 
Mr. Bolland, meanwhile, said separately that he would step down from the board of human-resources firm ManpowerGroup Inc. in February.
 
Coke’s board transition comes amid pressure from shareholders at the world’s largest beverage company, which failed to meet its revenue growth targets last year. Results has been pulled down by weak soda sales in the U.S. and elsewhere, and could fall short again this year.
 
Coca-Cola said in October that it would overhaul its executive-compensation plan before it goes into effect next year, following criticism from billionaire investor Warren Buffett who said the equity plan was excessive.The company will scale back stock options and shift to more cash-based performance awards.
 
Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is Coke’s largest shareholder with a 9% stake, and he has frequently criticized pay plans that rely heavily on stock options as “lottery tickets” that often generate outsize rewards.
 
By Angela Chen

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