When Coca-Cola granted Fortune magazine editor-at-large Patricia Sellers unprecedented access to the Atlanta-based company for a feature on Coca-Cola chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent, she traveled to China, Thailand and Japan with Kent and leaders of the Pacific Group.
In addition, she spent time with Coca-Cola Refreshments president and CEO Steve Cahillane, Coca-Cola North America president Sandy Douglas and several other company executives on an all-day market tour.
Sellers also interviewed board members, company partners and customers to get a wider view of the company for her piece, which appeared in the May 2012 Fortune 500 issue, an annual ranking of America’s largest companies. (Coca-Cola came in at No. 59 — 11 places above last year.) With that she delivered a compelling look into the determined, forward-thinking, entrepreneurial leader of the company.
A Look at Kent’s History at Coca-Cola
In the six-page article, "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," Sellers focuses on Kent's two stints with The Coca-Cola Company, first from 1978 to 1995, and then when he returned as head of the North Asia, Eurasia and Middle East division in 2005, culminating in his current role as CEO. She quotes Herbert Allen, CEO of investment firm Allen & Co., who calls Kent "the best chief executive Coke has had in 20 years."
Sellers writes: "Since he ascended to the CEO job in July 2008, he's redefined Coke's culture .... The new team has ramped up spending, energized Coke's marketing efforts and cranked up the deal-making machine .... The upshot: Revenue last year soared 33 percent to $46.5 billion ... and operating profits rose 20 percent to $10.1 billion. The stock is up 48 percent during Kent's tenure, while the S&P has risen 10 percent."
A Clear Vision for the Future
Sellers also writes in detail about two of Kent's key initiatives. The first, the 2020 Vision, Kent's plan to double sales by the year 2020, is part of the company’s efforts to "get ready for tomorrow today." 2020 Vision will help guide the company toward achieving sustainable, quality growth, with a mission to refresh the world, inspire moments of optimism and happiness, create value and make a difference.
The second initiative, Talent 2020, is a program to help train employees with potential, who are charged with researching a challenge unrelated to their day-to-day work. Six months later, these employees pitch their ideas to Kent — face-to-face, with no PowerPoint or other props. Writes Sellers of the program: "Strong ideas actually get implemented."
As Sellers reports, Kent is shaking up the corporate culture and remaking the company. Says IAC chief executive Barry Diller of Kent: "He gets better every year."
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