Ninety-one years ago today—on April 28, 1923—in a rare
Saturday meeting of the board of directors, Robert W. Woodruff was elected president
Robert was the son of Ernest and Emily Woodruff. He was born on Dec. 6, 1889, making him only three years younger than the company he would lead. Ernest Woodruff was an Atlanta businessman and President of Trust Company of Georgia, the predecessor to SunTrust Bank.
Woodruff showed an early passion for business and an early disinterest in schoolwork. After graduating from the Military Institute of Georgia, Woodruff attended Emory College for a short period before entering the business world. After a few years at Atlantic Coal and Ice, Woodruff was wooed by Walter White to join the Cleveland-based White Motor Company. Woodruff’s sales records and his leadership ability were soon evident, and he was elected vice president and offered a position on the board of directors by 1921.
In 1919, Ernest Woodruff led a group to purchase The
Coca-Cola Company from Asa Candler for $25 million. The three years following
that purchase were tumultuous for the company, which was locked into high sugar
prices because of advance purchases made following WWI and stung by
long-running lawsuits over trademark protection and bottling agreements. Coke’s
stock price had fallen dramatically from its $40 per-share IPO price in 1919.
Ernest Woodruff and W. C. Bradley convinced Robert Woodruff to take a $50,000 annual pay cut to come back to Atlanta and lead The
Woodruff was a brilliant businessman who changed the way the
company operated. He was devoted to
quality and worked to ensure that the drink was consistently excellent. He advocated to keep