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    Coke Names Isdell CEO

    Daft successor expected to provide immediate stability.

    NEW YORK -- Ending its high-profile search for a new chairman and CEO, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. named to the posts E. Neville Isdell, a former senior executive who led Coke's push into dozens of new markets around the globe during the 1980s and 1990s and later ran the world's second-largest Coke company, reported the Wall Street Journal. He will succeed Douglas Daft, who is retiring as soon as next month, the company said.

    The appointment of Isdell puts Coke's leadership in the hands of a highly regarded figure whom insiders say should have a clear understanding of the company's inner workings and challenges. Isdell is expected to provide immediate stability to the company, which has suffered in recent years from turmoil in its executive ranks and confusion over its strategy for reinvigorating growth in its core cola product.

    In an interview with WSJ, Isdell said he is comfortable with Coke's current business strategy and plans to spend his first 120 days visiting employees and managers around the Coke empire "finding out what the state of the business really is."

    "I don't have any fundamental disagreement with the strategy," he said. "I think the business is in good shape for 2004."

    Coke's results have improved since a series of restructurings and layoffs under Daft. But senior executives acknowledge its turnaround is a work in progress and say they need to deliver a full year of solid growth to erase skepticism among analysts and investors.

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