Coke in global team shake-up

Coca-Cola’s new chief executive Douglas Daft has taken swift action to revitalise the soft drink giant by drafting in a global management team, which includes a new global marketing chief.

The shake-up puts head of global marketing Charles Frenette in charge of the company’s beleaguered European operation, in what many observers view as a sideways move.

Frenette was seen as a candidate to take Daft’s former role as senior vice-president of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In Europe, he replaces William Casey, who is retiring.

Frenette has been replaced in the top global marketing role by former UK marketing director Steve Jones, who only recently became president of Minute Maid, Coke’s joint venture with Danone. His appointment is seen as a reward for the 44-year-old Canadian’s strong performance in Coke’s key Japanese market, where he was deputy division director for five years and worked closely with Daft.

Donald Knauss succeeds Jones at Minute Maid.

The shake-up is the first sign that Daft plans to devolve power from Coke’s Atlanta headquarters and hand more decision-making to the regions.

The move is also likely to spark huge job losses, with about 4,000 staff worldwide facing the axe. It is understood that 2,000 jobs are under threat in Atlanta, with corporate marketing roles taking heavy losses. A spokesman for Coke in the US refuses to comment on staff cuts.

The regional shuffle splits the Middle and Far East division. Donald Short has been appointed president of the Africa and Middle East group, while Sandy Allan will be president of the Asia Pacific group, including Japan.

But a source close to the company says the restructure is likely to be the first of many and that the devolution of power to the regions could spell the end for global brand directors.

“Daft recognises Coke must have a regional focus, so what will the global brand chiefs in Atlanta actually be doing?” asks the source.

Daft has been swift to bring in a new team following a disastrous year for the company, which led to the departure of his predecessor, Doug Ivestor. The European operation, especially, has suffered, with the Belgium and France contamination fiasco and the block on its bid for Orangina.

Frenette faces a major challenge to repair the damage. The 47-year-old has been with the company for over 22 years and has a strong operational background, which will be essential to put the company back on course.

With the European competition authorities’ move curbing its acquisition of Cadbury Schweppes’ brands, and the blockage of the Orangina deal by the French government, Coke’s only growth option is increased sales.

So the supply chain must be Frenette’s main priority. He will also have to repair relationships with the European regulators, financial markets – and even the media.

But his most important role will be to strengthen consumer relationships. A new major ad campaign, carrying the strapline “Enjoy”, is launching in the US – and is likely to come to Europe later this year.

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