Tap Dancing to Work

Revealed: Coke's next CEO

November 21, 2012: 11:34 AM ET

By John Huey

This is a sidebar that ran with The World's Best Brand in the May 31, 1993 issue of Fortune.

After a European tour, Ivester's tough job is moving more Coke in the mature U.S. market.

After a European tour, Ivester's tough job is moving more Coke in the mature U.S. market.

FORTUNE -- You heard it here first: Barring disaster, the next CEO of Coca­Cola (KO) will be M. Douglas Ivester, 46, a former outside auditor who worked his way through the University of Georgia as a Kroger bag boy.

When he will ascend is up to CEO Goizueta, who doesn't reach 65 for four years and will probably keep the title of chairman when the time comes. Despite Goizueta's insistence that he hasn't chosen a successor, Ivester has been his hand-groomed protege for years, as well as the architect of many of Coke's fancier financial plays, including the creation of Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) -- a spun-off conglomerate of big U.S. bottlers that Coke effectively controls without absorbing its liabilities.

Ivester has wielded considerable influence in shaping the company's future. He was the main force behind Coke's $150 million investment in information technology, driven by his frustrations in trying to get faster financial information. He finally solved the problem -- the process now takes a few days, not six weeks -- he says, by getting to know everyone in the typing pool on a first-name basis. While president of Coke's European Community Group he developed the company's cutting-edge teleconferencing system because, he says "the travel was breaking my back."

Goizueta has broadened Ivester's skills by moving him beyond finance to such front-line operating jobs as head of European operations and now head of the North American business, where he has proved himself capable. In Europe he backed Coke's rapid -- and high risk -- deployment into the former East Germany, which set the company's pace in Eastern Europe. In the U.S. he has been central to working out strategic alliances with huge customers Wal-Mart (WMT) and McDonald's (MCD).

Taciturn and media-shy, Ivester is almost the opposite of retired president Don Keough, a world champion back slapper, flesh presser, and motivational speaker. As a Wall Street analyst puts it, "After Keough, a team of Goizueta-Ivester could be pretty dour." Dour perhaps, but very focused.

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