Coca-Cola Bottler Up For Sale

After 21 years in the bottling business, J. Bruce Llewellyn, 79, will be leaving “The Coke Side of Life” behind. Llewellyn’s firm, Brucephil Inc., the parent company of the Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Co. (No. 5 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $540 million in sales), has signed an agreement to sell its remaining shares to the Coca-Cola Co.

The Coca-Cola Co. currently owns 31% of Philly Coke, which manufactures approximately 2% of all Coke products in the U.S. If the purchase is completed, the soft drink giant will hold a controlling interest.

Analysts speculate that Coca-Cola will eventually sell its shares to another bottler. “Coca-Cola’s strategy for owning bottlers hasn’t changed,” says Scott Williamson, a Coca-Cola spokesman. “Long term we do not see ourselves owning bottling companies other than in certain situations. Beyond distressed bottlers and bottlers in strategic locations … it would be premature to speculate about what we may ultimately do regarding the Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Company.”

The potential sale is subject to regulatory approval and other terms and conditions. If approved, the transfer of ownership is expected no later than early 2009.

Before purchasing the bottling company, Llewellyn owned Fedco Foods Corp., a chain of 10 food stores in the Bronx, New York. Llewellyn elevated Fedco’s earnings by $82 million; by the time he sold it in 1984, Fedco had become the nation’s largest minority-owned retail business.

Llewellyn attacked the bottling business with the same sense of industry and drive. “If you’re not willing to be competitive, you’re not going to make it,” he asserted in a 1986 interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE (see “Bruce: The Boss,” September 1986). Evidently Llewellyn knows how to compete — Philly Coke’s sales have increased by $300 million to $540 million for 2005.

Why Llewellyn did not sell the franchise’s shares directly to another bottler is unknown.

Llewellyn’s imprint on the Coke family is no doubt permanent, but now he says he would like the Coca-Cola Co. to shepherd the Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Co. into the future. — Marcia A. Wade

At age 21, Cleveland Cavalier LeBron Jameshas done the impossible. He’s lived up to the King James hype on and off the court. Now James wants to prove himself in the boardroom as a founder of a newly formed sports marketing agency, LRMR Innovative Marketing and Branding. Formed with James’ high school friends, the company’s name derives from the first letters in the four associates’ first names: LeBron James; Randy Mims, 30; St. Vincent-St. Mary High School teammate Maverick Carter, 24; and Richard Paul, 27.

LRMR has set expansive goals. One is to turn James into a global icon by Aug. 8, 2008, the same day the U.S. Olympic team arrives in Beijing for the Summer Games. Another is to “change the sports marketing prism through leveraging of sports, celebrity, and corporate infusion partnerships,” says James.

James has successfully renegotiated a three-year, $60 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Meanwhile, Carter has been busy building relationships with powerful brands, including Microsoft and Boost Mobile.

Aside from his business, James is a socially conscious