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Coca-Cola names Hendrik Steckhan President of U.S. operations

December 9, 2015
Food & Drink

Coca-Cola Co. promoted three company veterans Tuesday, tapping Hendrik Steckhan to oversee U.S. operations and naming Stuart Kronauge and Ivan Pollard to co-head U.S. marketing.

The moves position Mr. Steckhan, 53, as the leading candidate eventually to succeed North American chief Sandy Douglas, although Mr. Douglas isn’t expected to leave the beverage giant before 2018.

Ms. Kronauge and Mr. Pollard will take over the responsibilities of former North American marketing chief Wendy Clark, who resigned from the company last month to head advertising agency DDB Worldwide’s North American business.

The promotions come as Coke tries to kick sales into a higher gear in its home market. The company has boosted domestic revenue in recent quarters by raising prices, but soda-industry volumes are expected to decline for an 11th straight year as health-conscious Americans scale back on sugary drinks and diet sodas.

The latest moves follow several other senior management changes at Coke, which is in the midst of a $3 billion global cost-cutting program and has vowed to return to mid-single-digit revenue growth in 2016 after falling short each of the past three years.

Coke said Monday that Chief Administrative Officer Alex Cummings will step down in March after 18 years with the company. It announced in August that Ahmet Bozer, the company’s international chief, also will leave the company next March.

Mr. Douglas, 54, was viewed as a strong candidate earlier this year to be named Chief Executive Muhtar Kent’s top deputy. Mr. Kent instead elevated James Quincey , Europe’s business head, in August. That sparked speculation Mr. Douglas might leave Coke, but the company has since given him new stock options that vest at the end of 2017 to entice him to stay.

Mr. Steckhan will report to Mr. Douglas and has held several senior roles at Coke, most recently as president of noncarbonated beverages in North America. He was credited with boosting sales as head of Coke’s German business from 2010 to 2014 and oversaw carbonated brands in North America from 2007 to 2010. He also has worked in Latin America for Coke.

Mr. Steckhan’s promotion means Mr. Douglas likely will pull back from day-to-day management and dedicate more time to Coke’s North American refranchising efforts. Coke has said it plans to sell the bulk of its North American bottling assets by 2017 to focus on its more profitable concentrate business.

Mr. Kent in August also named Mr. Douglas as the point person in Coke’s efforts to overhaul its health and wellness policies in the U.S. after the company came under fire for quietly funding scientific researchers accused of minimizing the role of sugary drinks in obesity.

Ms. Kronauge, 45, will head brand marketing for soda, water and tea brands in the U.S. She is currently senior vice president of customer marketing.

Mr. Pollard, 53, will head strategic marketing in the U.S. He is currently senior vice president of connections, investments and assets.

Both marketing executives will report to Mr. Steckhan.

Coke replaced Joe Tripodi, its longtime chief marketing officer, this past January with Marcos de Quinto. Mr. de Quinto, also a company veteran, is expected soon to replace Coke’s “Open Happiness’’ global marketing campaign that was launched in 2009.

By Mike Esterl

Source: Wall Street Journal

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