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Coke Names Daft Chairman and CEO

Douglas Daft is already effectively in power after he announced a major restructuring two weeks ago

Updated from 7:05 a.m. EST

Douglas Daft became the chairman and chief executive officer of


(KO) - Get Coca-Cola Company Report

Thursday, after M. Douglas Ivester stepped down from those posts sooner than the company had previously announced.

Daft, the company's 56-year-old president and chief operating officer, had effectively taken the reins of the soft-drink giant since Coca-Cola announced a major restructuring two weeks ago.

Ivester, who

announced his retirement more than two months ago, had originally been scheduled to remain chairman and chief executive officer until the company's annual shareholder meeting in April.

The news did not come as a big surprise to analysts, many of whom say they have been aware that Daft has been effectively in charge since he was elected to the chief position in December.

"The board essentially wanted to end any confusion and make the transfer now," said David Goldman, analyst and managing director at

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Banc of America Securities


Daft has formulated a plan to lift the company after sagging earnings due to inefficiencies and slumping sales have caused the stock price to drift lower since its peak in mid-1998.

"Douglas Daft has done more for this company in 60 days than other chairmen have been able to do in their entire tenures," said Goldman, who rates the stock a buy and whose firm has not underwritten any debt or stock for the company.

The restructuring plan called for about 6,000 job cuts and reductions in bottler inventories. The company warned in mid-January that the plan will impact 2000 earnings with a charge of about $800 million. At the same time it announced the plan, Coke pre-warned investors of its lower-than-expected fourth-quarter 1999 earnings.

Because the company said the restructuring costs could spread throughout the year, they have been hesitant about bidding the stock back up.

In midday trading, shares of the Atlanta-based company were down 5/8, or 2%, at 52 11/16. (At the close Thursday, the stock was down 1 1/4, or 2.3%, at 52 5/16.) The stock is off from the roughly 67 level where it traded in January, before the restructuring was announced.

The company also named Jack Stahl as president and chief operating officer, to fill Daft's position. Stahl was formerly chief executive officer of the company's North American and Latin American business units.

The decisions were made at the scheduled meeting of Coca-Cola's board.

Coca-Cola also named Donald R. Knauss a vice president. Knauss has served as president and chief executive officer of the company's

Minute Maid

division since January.