Who is Roberto C. Goizueta?

Roberto C. Goizueta

(1931-1997)

The driving force behind the success of the Coca-Cola Company in the latter part of the twentieth century, Roberto C. Goizueta became one of the most successful men in corporate America. His life story is a realization of the American Dream. Goizueta was born and raised in Havana, Cuba.

He came to the United States and attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he earned his B.S. in chem¬ ical engineering, in 1953. After college, he returned to Havana, where he took a position as a quality-control chemist in the technical department of Compania Embotelladora Coca- Cola, S.A., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Company

During the Cuban communist revolution of 1959, Fidel Castro’s forces took over the Havana Coca-Cola plant where Goizueta worked, forcing him to flee the country with his wife and children. Goizueta remained with Coca-Cola, and in 1964, he was assigned to the corporate offices in Atlanta, Georgia.

The fol¬ lowing year, he was named assistant to the vice president for research and development. Two years later, he was promoted to vice president of engineering. By 1981, he had climbed the ranks to become the company’s chief executive officer (CEO) and chairman of the board.

Over the next sixteen years, Goizueta presided over a number of bold moves by the company. In 1985, the company launched New Coke. It was a commercial failure, but Goizueta turned it into a positive when he relaunched Coca-Cola Classic just a few months later. In 1989, after the Berlin Wall fell, Coca-Cola expanded into Eastern European markets. The company made a deal with China in 1993.

In that same year, the popular “Always Coca-Cola” ads were unveiled. During Goizueta’s tenure, the Coca-Cola Company’s stock market value rose by 3,500 percent to $150 billion, and sales climbed to $19 billion. Coca-Cola became the top soft drink manufacturer in the world, with control of nearly half the world market.

In 1991, Goizueta was criticized because he had received a compensation package worth $86 million. At the company’s annual stock¬ holders’ meeting, however, he defended the amount by pointing to the tremendous growth and profit he had brought to the company. None of the shareholders at the meeting could argue with him.

Goizueta helped bring the Olympic Games to Atlanta in 1996, and he was actively involved in community service. He served as a trustee of the Robert W. WoodruffArts Center of Emory University and a board member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He was also a board member of the Boys Club of America and a founding director of the Points of Light Initiative Foundation. Goizueta died in 1997 of lung cancer.