Coca-Cola Co. yesterday headed off the potentially embarrassing loss of its top-ranking African American executive, naming Senior Vice President Carl H. Ware to a new post reporting directly to Coke's incoming chairman, Douglas N. Daft.
Ware, 56, who is president of Coke's Africa division, will lead a new division of global public affairs and administration, and Daft will recommend to the company's board that it elect Ware executive vice president, the company said yesterday. In addition, Ware will join the company's executive committee.
The move undoes Ware's resignation, which he announced in November after then-Chairman Douglas Ivester reorganized management, effectively demoting Ware to a third tier of executives who didn't report directly to him. But Ivester resigned in early December, battered by a series of misfortunes including product recalls in Europe, battles with European regulators, and a suit by current and former employees of Coke who claim that the company discriminates on the basis of race.
Ware's resignation was also a factor creating tension between Ivester and the board and leading to his resignation, analysts have said.
Yesterday, Ware said he didn't believe his resignation was a factor in Ivester's resignation. Yet Ware said Daft began urging him to stay with the company a day after Ivester resigned and the board named Daft his successor. Ivester's resignation takes effect in April, and Ware had planned to step down later in the year.
"Doug Daft just made a deft move," said former Atlanta mayor Maynard H. Jackson. "This new division and Carl Ware will be a match made in Coca-Cola heaven." Ware said he is excited about a job that is in operations and "goes beyond the traditional corporate affairs" role. In fact, Ware is stepping into an area where Coke has suffered some of its worst setbacks in the past year or so, making mistakes such as initially minimizing quality-control problems that produced product recalls in Europe.
"Carl's job is to make sure that, after what they've gone through this year, that the perception of them is a good one," said Emanuel Goldman, an industry analyst at Merrill Lynch Global Securities. Goldman said Africa has shown substantial gains in volume under Ware, even at a time when the company as a whole was experiencing slower growth.
Ware said he and Daft "both agree this business is built on millions of customer relations and community relations and employee relations." The two have worked side by side, said Ware, a veteran of 26 years with Coke, and "are already friends and could have candid conversations about what is best for the business and how to move."
In addition to his work with Coke, Ware was elected to the City Council in Atlanta, where Coke has its headquarters. He was president of the council from 1976 to 1979.
"Carl's principal role is to ensure that the Coca-Cola Company continues to be welcome around the world, and that we apply 'community' and 'neighbor' equally to those who live next door or on the next continent," said Daft, who is from Australia. "We must think locally and act locally, and no one understands that better than Carl."
John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, said, "One has to give the company lots of credit for figuring out a way to turn that resignation around and keep him on the board."
Coke's shares, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, closed up 6 1/4 cents, at $56.43 3/4.