Coca-Cola Co. today named Steven J. Heyer president and chief operating officer, the company said. He will continue to oversee the company's marketing budget, which stands at more than $400 million in the U.S. alone, though it was not immediately clear who would take over his duties in Latin America or with Coca-Cola Ventures.
Brian Dyson, who had stepped out of retirement in 2001 to help revive the troubled company, has been chief operating officer and vice chairman. Mr. Dyson has retired again; he had planned to leave next year. The company's most recent president was Jack Stahl, who left after a March 2001 reorganization. Since May, the company has been expected to name a No. 2 to CEO-Chairman Douglas Daft, with Mr. Heyer said to have been on the very short list.
Since arriving at the world's largest soft-drink company in March 2001 from AOL Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System, Mr. Heyer has shaken up marketing and expanded the advertising agency roster. Viewed as highly intelligent and sometimes brusque, he is said not to indulge stale thinking.
"Over the past 18 months, Steve has brought a fresh and objective perspective that has been enormously helpful to all of us while, at the same time, embracing and learning from the rich historic culture of Coca-Cola. This combination uniquely qualifies him for this key position," Mr. Daft said in a press release.
In his new role, Mr. Heyer also will work with senior management on strategy, resource allocation and bottler relations.
Though considered a maverick, he widely has been viewed as the likely successor to Mr. Daft. Mr. Heyer's success in turning around Latin America was seen as a test by the company's very engaged board of directors. An elevation to president and chief operating officer would seem to solidify his standing with the board.
Coca-Cola had been struggling with low share prices, poorly received North American advertising and a poor showing among core brands, including flagship Coca-Cola Classic. Mr. Heyer has expanded the advertising roster to include agencies not just from within Interpublic Group of Cos., the company's longtime ad partner, but also from WPP Group.
WPP's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell is handling the much anticipated "Real" campaign for Coke Classic, which is expected to break early next year.