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Stock Analyst Update

Daft Takes the Reins at Coke Two Months Early

New CEO was already running the company anyway.

Capping an unusually smooth transfer of power, on Thursday the Coca-Cola (KO) board formally named Douglas Daft chairman and chief executive officer.

It also selected Jack Stahl as president and chief operating officer, making him Daft's top lieutenant. Outgoing CEO Douglas Ivester, who has been virtually invisible since December, retired.

The quick transition is a positive step for Coke, which has floundered over the last couple of years. The company still faces some tough challenges--among them, implementing an ambitious restructuring program that will involve laying off 20% of its workforce. But with Daft firmly at the helm and a strong number-two executive under him, Coke is on track to regain its former glory.

Daft was not supposed to take over officially until Coke's annual meeting in April, but he has effectively been running the company ever since Ivester announced his intention to step down more than two months ago. Daft presided over Coke's earnings conference call last month, as well as an analysts meeting two days later. In both cases, Ivester, the nominal CEO, was nowhere to be found.

Daft has been putting his own stamp on the company, in some cases trying to undo Ivester's damage. For example, he brought back Carl Ware, the high-ranking African-American executive who had resigned after Ivester, in effect, demoted him. Daft has also made conciliatory moves toward European regulators who had been hostile to Coke.

 

David Kathman does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.