Ending speculation about the future management of Coca-Cola Co., the beverage giant's board unanimously named M. Douglas Ivester president and chief operating officer yesterday and solidified its next-generation management team with three other top-level executive appointments.
Mr. Ivester, 47, who was principal operating officer of Coca-Cola's North American operations, was chosen by Roberto Goizueta, Coca-Cola's 62-year-old chairman and chief executive officer.
Mr. Ivester was also elected to the board of directors by the 13-member group, which met yesterday for an hour and a half.
"It's Doug Ivester's job to lose now," said Jesse Meyers, publisher of Beverage Digest, an industry newsletter. He referred to the question of who would succeed Mr. Goizueta, who was scheduled to retire in November 1996 until the Coca-Cola board asked him last April to stay indefinitely.
But it would be "totally erroneous to characterize anyone as the heir apparent to someone who isn't sure when he is going to retire," Mr. Goizueta said in an interview.
"I don't know when I will retire, and how can I know what the situation will be then?"
He said that he wouldn't know who was right for the job until he decided to step down.
On Monday, the company announced that its second-quarter earnings were up 12 percent, buoyed by emerging-market sales in India, China, the Middle East and Latin America. Earnings per share climbed 13 percent, to 59 cents, from 52 cents a year ago.
The president's job has been open since April 15, 1993, when Donald R. Keough, the longtime president, retired.
On that day, Mr. Ivester was appointed executive vice president, supervising North American operations, and John Hunter, 56, was named principal operating officer of Coca-Cola International.
Both managers shared the operating-officer duties. Now Mr. Hunter will report to Mr. Ivester instead of Mr. Goizueta, though Mr. Hunter's duties will be the same.
"This is a wonderful team here, and Mr. Hunter is the right man in the right place, he added. "You can try to make it sound more sexy," he said of his decision to keep Mr. Hunter in his job, "but that's the honest truth."
Some had expected Mr. Goizueta to wait before elevating a new president. "It's a positive that Mr. Goizueta has acted quickly on this," said Emanuel Goldman, an analyst who follows Coca-Cola for Paine Webber. "It's important that the uncertainty over who would be next in line has gone away."
Completing the staffing of Coca-Cola's top executive suite, Mr. Goizueta also announced that Jack Stahl, 41, would succeed Mr. Ivester as president of Coca-Cola USA. Mr. Stahl had been Coke's chief financial officer.
The board also elected James Chestnut, 44, as Coca-Cola's chief financial officer, filling Mr. Stahl's position. Succeeding Mr. Chestnut as vice president and controller is Gary Fayard, 42, who was deputy controller.