My dad died last week, and I was lucky enough to spend most of his last month with him in Pennsylvania. A great time, a great life, no regrets. Hours before he died, I got an email from Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, wishing my dad well and commenting on my Coke story in the current Fortune 500 issue. My dad never got the chance to see the story, but I read Kent's very kind email to him. It was the last thing my dad comprehended.
The week before my dad became ill, I spent five days in Asia with Kent, and the CEO and I had plenty of time to talk about life as well as business. During the trip in late March, Kent told me about his dad and the special time he spent with him during his years away from Coke--when Kent, disillusioned with Coke's direction, went off to build a brewer in Turkey, his homeland. The CEO's dad, Necdet Kent, was an extraordinary man. When Muhtar was a young boy, his father was Turkey's ambassador to Thailand, and then to India, Sweden and Poland. While Muhtar grew up to be a great CEO--and turned around Coca-Cola (KO) after years of trouble--he doesn't hold a candle to his dad in the hero department.
Necdet Kent saved scores of Jews during World War II. In 1943, when he was a foreign service officer posted in Marseille, France, he learned one day that the Germans had loaded 80 Turkish Jews into cattle cars, to take them to a concentration camp. According to published reports, Kent told the Gestapo officer to release the Jews—they were Turkish citizens, Kent noted, and Turkey was mainly neutral in the war. The German officer refused—the passengers were nothing but Jews, he said to Kent. So what did Kent do? He boarded the train, negotiated and refused to get off until all the Jews were permitted to get off with him.
This was just one act of bravery by Muhtar Kent's father. During his three years stationed in Marseilles, Necdet Kent reportedly issued Turkish ID papers to many Jews who had fled to southern France without their Turkish passports.
Necdet Kent refused any public commendation for his heroism until Muhtar took him to Israel shortly before he died in 2002. (He died at 91, the same age that my dad reached). "Life is all about respecting others," says Muhtar, who now trots the globe selling both Coke and tolerance. "I'm very proud to have been raised as a secular Muslim," he adds. "Only with tolerance can we pass a better world on to the next generation."
Playing a key role in the Xerox (XRX) corporate turnaround, serving on the American Express (AXP) board, doing big deals with Procter and Gamble (PG)—all these things give Ursula Burns unique perspective on the value of corporate reputation. The Xerox chief knows from personal experience how reputation can make or break a company.
Burns takes reputation very seriously. When I asked her to answer a few questions for Fortune's Most Admired MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 6, 2012 9:25 AM ET
It's a rare case when a Fortune 500 CEO gets ousted, and then the guy wearing the boot divvies out praise. But this is what happened after Howard Schultz fired Jim Donald as CEO of Starbucks (SBUX) and replaced him with himself. "You cannot meet a kinder human being," says Schultz about Donald in his book, Onward, about Starbucks' turnaround. "A natural talent for building relationships at every level of MOREPatricia Sellers - Feb 28, 2012 12:31 PM ET
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) watchers--and many insiders too--were betting that Sheri McCoy would be the health-care giant's next CEO. This week, the guy, Alex Gorsky, got the job instead.
The contest to succeed chief Bill Weldon, which started in earnest two years ago, was extremely close between the two vice chairmen, according to my sources close to J&J. While some have speculated that the board favored Gorsky, 51, because he's MOREPatricia Sellers - Feb 24, 2012 12:35 PM ET
Sheryl Sandberg keeps on giving. Journalistically, that is. Last week, here on Postcards, we riffed on the New York Times profile of Sandberg, whose ambition for young women in business seems to match her ambition for Facebook, where she is COO. That is: Just do it...take over the world.
On Saturday, CNN.com ran a story titled "How to have more Sheryl Sandbergs." The key? "Peer influence," posed the authors, Courtney E. MOREPatricia Sellers - Feb 14, 2012 12:14 PM ET
Michele Bachmann appears destined for a single-digit portion of the votes in today's Iowa caucus, but low Presidential poll numbers are not stopping her from comparing herself to Margaret Thatcher. In a final plea to Iowa voters, she said, "We need to have someone who's going to campaign and govern in the image of a Ronald Reagan and a Margaret Thatcher."
Bachmann is no Ronald Reagan. But after Mary Civiello wrote MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 3, 2012 1:15 PM ET
Last we heard from media and presentation coach Mary Civiello, she weighed in on lessons from the Oscar-winning The King's Speech. She's back in the movie theater studying another icon of British history: Margaret Thatcher, portrayed by Meryl Streep in Iron Lady. Civiello knows of what she speaks: She works with executives at such companies as Morgan Stanley (MS), American Express (AXP), DreamWorks Animation (DWA), Merck (MRK) and Fortune's parent, MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 29, 2011 9:36 AM ET
Over Christmas weekend, Sheryl Sandberg emailed me, sounding a bit distressed.
Referring to a big story about Fortune's Most Powerful Women in Sunday's Washington Post (WPO), the Facebook COO asked if I'd been misquoted in saying that I believe women will never have 50% of the top jobs in corporate America. "Don't depress me!" Sandberg wrote.
Sorry, Sheryl, the Post quoted me correctly.
I do, in fact, believe that women won't ever—ever!--reach parity MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 27, 2011 9:48 AM ET
Women are losing power in corporate America.
Besides the news that struggling Avon (AVP) is looking to replace Andrea Jung as CEO, there is Catalyst's annual census, released this morning, showing that women hold 14.1% of executive positions in Fortune 500 companies today, vs. 15.6% five years ago.
The trend isn't a good one, especially if you consider that companies with more women at the top tend to perform better financially, according MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 14, 2011 6:43 AM ET
Great leaders are made, not born.
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski drilled that point home when he came to New York this week to accept Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year award. Speaking to an audience that included a few other champions--Chris Evert, Wayne Gretzky, Sugar Ray Leonard, and the University of Tennessee's Pat Summitt, who is SI's Sportswoman of the Year--Coach K told a story that explained who gave him what MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 9, 2011 9:52 AM ET
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