Recruited to Coke by CEO Muhtar Kent in 2007, Kelley has been instrumental to the turnaround of the world's largest beverage company. A quiet hard-charger with a stellar resume—he ran Lincoln Mercury for Ford (F) following stints at General Electric (GE) and Procter & Gamble (PG)—Kelly was CEO of SIRVA, a $3.7 billion company once known as North American Van Lines, when Kent discovered him. Kelley initially headed Coke's still beverage business--water, teas, juices and sports drinks. He was then charged with integrating the North American bottling operations that Coke bought from Coca-Cola Enterprises CCE) for $12.3 billion. When I interviewed Kent for "The New Coke" in Fortune last spring, the CEO lauded Kelley for pulling off the integration more quickly than he had expected.
Recently, Kelley has been chief product supply officer, in charge of the supply chain for Coca-Cola Refreshments, which is the company's North American business unit. He was slated to move into a bigger gig, president of Coca-Cola Refreshments, on January 1.
Kelley was not in line to be Coke's next CEO, which may be why he is leaving for the coffee biz. At Vermont-based Green Mountain, which brought in revenue of $3.6 billion last year, he may be moving to an even tougher challenge than the revival of $46.5 billion Coca-Cola. Green Mountain, once high-flying, has been plagued by management turnover, SEC probes, rows with investors, and fierce competition from Starbucks (SBUX). Green Mountain sells the Keurig brand of single-serve coffee makers, a business that Starbucks is aiming to conquer.
In the past two years, Green Mountain's stock more than tripled and has since collapsed below what it was.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola's profits and stock price have risen steadily under Kent. And the impending management realignment clarifies the company's CEO succession outlook.
One contender to succeed Kent as Coke's CEO had been Latin American boss José Octavio "Pacho" Reyes. But he now plans to retire in March 2014. Reyes' exit leaves two frontrunners. One is Steve Cahillane, 47, a Kent recruit from Labatt USA, where he was president until 2007. Cahillane currently leads Coca-Cola Refreshments, the domestic unit that Kelley was supposed to run. In January, Cahillane will take charge of the Americas, both north and south. Last spring, Kent described Cahillane as a "a no-nonsense operator" who steers clear of corporate politics--something that poisoned Coke pre-Kent. "People like to work for Steve," Kent told me.
Ahmet Bozer, who like Kent was born and raised in Turkey, is the other contender to succeed him. Bozer, 52, heads Coca-Cola's Eurasia and Africa group. In January, he will move up to oversee all international operations outside of the Americas.
Not that Kent is planning to retire anytime soon. The Coke chief will turn 60 on December 1. The company does not have a mandatory retirement age.
Meanwhile, the board loves what Kent has done since he took charge July 1, 2008. Last spring, when I asked Coke director Barry Diller, the CEO of IAC (IACI), how long the board would like Kent to stay, he replied: "How about 2040? He gets better every year."
In social media, Coke is it. Coca-Cola is the biggest consumer brand on Facebook (FB). At the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit earlier this month, I interviewed Wendy Clark, SVP of Integrated Marketing Communications and Capabilities at Coca-Cola (KO). The day before we hit the stage, Clark sent me an email to share her ideas. That email, which she wrote on the plane on her way to southern California, was MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 17, 2012 11:08 AM ET
Last March, when I visited Wendy Clark, Coca-Cola's (KO) SVP of integrated marketing, in Atlanta, Coke was the biggest consumer brand in social media, with 41 million "Likes" on Facebook (FB).
Just six months later, Coke now has 51 million "Likes" on Facebook.
On Tuesday, at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, California, I asked Clark for her three best tips on building a social-media fan base.
Here's what she MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 4, 2012 8:36 AM ET
The women behind Fortune's annual power women powwow offer their suggestions on what to watch.
By Nina Easton, Stephanie N. Mehta and Patricia Sellers
FORTUNE -- As the co-chairs of the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, which takes place Oct. 1-3 in Laguna Niguel, Calif., we are unabashedly biased: We helped develop the program, and we think everything -- every interview, panel and roundtable -- will be thought-provoking, enlightening and entertaining. We encourage MOREFortune Editors - Sep 28, 2012 10:52 AM ET
How to thrive in the digital world? The best advice may be to change the way you think about your power.
From London, where Fortune hosted a Most Powerful Women conference on Monday, to Cannes, where I'm now at the ad industry's Lions Festival of Creativity, the most fevered discussion has been about how to succeed in the digital space. Success seems to derive, ironically, from divesting your power and putting it MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 20, 2012 10:03 AM ET
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 MOREPatricia Sellers - May 17, 2012 10:50 AM ET
In four years as CEO of the Coca-Cola Co., he has cranked up profits and trumped Pepsi in the beverage wars. Now Kent is shaking up Coke's culture and remaking the company in his own image.
FORTUNE -- Muhtar Kent, the son of a Turkish diplomat, grew up in Thailand, India, and Iran, and he runs a company that operates in more than 200 countries. So it is rare for him MOREPatricia Sellers - May 10, 2012 5:00 AM ET
By Patricia Sellers
You've probably heard of inclusive capitalism. That's the call for companies, in all their decision-making, to consider what's good for society.
There's also creative capitalism. That's Bill Gates' rallying cry for a new economic system where, as he said in a 2007 speech at Harvard, "market forces work better for the poor."
Now Neville Isdell, the former CEO of Coca-Cola (KO), is floating another name for "how business has to MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 28, 2010 11:02 AM ET
"When Ed Whitacre decides, it's not negotiable. If he decides against you, you're done."
--Coca-Cola (KO) exec Wendy Clark, about General Motors' (GM) new CEO, whom she worked for when he headed AT&T (ATT). Today, the GM board ousted CEO Fritz Henderson, who was in the post just eight months, and installed Whitacre, GM's chairman, as the new chief executive.
No doubt, Whitacre had a key role in the power shift.
And hearing MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 1, 2009 6:11 PM ET
I was not in Germany for the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago today. But I got a front seat to business history-in-the-making three months later, when I went to East Germany to report a story about Coca-Cola's (KO) aggressive ramp-up in Europe following the Communist collapse.
It seems like yesterday.
Talk about a capitalist invasion. I remember how euphoric--genuinely euphoric--East German consumers and shop-owners were to suddenly have access MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 9, 2009 2:22 PM ET
|McDonald's gives Charles Ramsey free food for a year|
|Where your donation dollars go|
|Doomsday investors betting on market crash|
|Investors consider life after Fed stimulus|
|The 'chicken poop' credit and other bad tax breaks|