Nearly two months after his surprising retirement announcement, Carl H. Ware, the highest-ranking black executive at the Coca-Cola Co., has reconsidered his decision. He has opted to head the corporation’s new international public and governmental affairs division.
Coke President and COO Douglas Daft made the announcement in January while praising Ware for his service to the company. Ware was to depart the Atlanta-based beverage company at the end of 2000, but will now remain as senior manager of the new Global Public Affairs and Administration division.
“I’m delighted by this new opportunity to serve the company to which I’ve devoted 26 years,” Ware said in a statement.
Currently senior vice president and president of the company’s African operations group, Ware is expected to be elected executive vice president by the company’s board of directors. The 56-year-old Ware will be responsible for global communications, government relations, corporate external affairs and corporate services-the day-to-day operation of facilities that include those in Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C. In his new position, Ware will maintain strategic oversight of African operations once a new group president is named.
“Carl’s principal role is to ensure that the Coca-Cola Co. continues to be welcome around the world, and that we apply ‘community’ and ‘neighbor’ equally to those who live next door or on the next continent,” said Daft when making the announcement. “We must think locally and act locally, and no one understands that better than Carl.”
Immediate reaction from industry analysts suggested that retaining Ware would boost the embattled company, which is embroiled in controversy both abroad and domestically.
Most recently, France blocked Coke’s $733 million offer to take over Orangina drink products, citing the threat of monopoly, and Italy fined Coke $16.1 million for other market dominance abuses.
Meanwhile, at home, Coke is currently defending itself in a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit filed in April 1999 by a group of current and former black employees. The group claims it was paid less than white employees, was systematically passed over for promotions and was given less favorable job-performance evaluations as far back as 1995. Robert Baskin, spokesperson for Coca-Cola, and other company officials would not comment on the case, which is still in litigation.
In addition to its ongoing legal problems, the Coca-Cola Co. is in an ongoing battle with competitors such as the Pepsi Co. to increase its market share. And considering the fact that African Americans make up such a large share of the cola drinking market, it’s no wonder Coke would like to retain some sort of African American presence at its upper management level. Whether competitors such as Pepsi will follow this example remains to be seen at this point. But according to Target Market News’ sixth annual report, “The Buying Power of Black America,” African Americans spent $835 million on various colas in 1998. So both companies may want to reevaluate.
Indeed, Ware’s continued presence at the company is considered by some to be a major coup for the troubled beverage bottling company-and for Daft, the designated successor