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Coke CFO Waller Ending ‘Remarkable’ Career

After three decades at the company, Kathy Waller will retire in March and be replaced by Asia Pacific Group chief John Murphy.
Matthew HellerOctober 19, 2018
Coke CFO Waller Ending ‘Remarkable’ Career

Coca-Cola has announced that Kathy Waller is stepping down after four years as CFO and will be replaced by a “rising star” at the soft drinks giant, Asia Pacific Group chief John Murphy.

Waller, who will retire in March 2019, joined Coca-Cola as a senior accountant in 1987. She told The Wall Street Journal she was proud of helping create a pipeline of women leaders at Coke and instilling greater efficiency at the company.

Coca-Cola credited her with “a remarkable three-decade career.”

“I join everyone at Coca-Cola in thanking Kathy for her many years of exemplary service to the company,” CEO James Quincey said in a news release. “She leaves a great legacy as a leader, including as a mentor who created a strong organization and put the building blocks in place to continue to transform and modernize our finance function.”

Kathy Waller

As the Journal reports, Waller has lately been at the center of Coca-Cola’s push to expand beyond sugary soft drinks and “had to balance cost-cutting with the company’s drive to innovate new products during her tenure as CFO.”

Between 2015 and 2017, selling, general and administrative expenses at the company were cut 24% to offset a 20% decline in revenue, according to company filings. During the same period, gross margin strengthened to 62% from 60.2%, according to FactSet.

Waller will be succeeded by Murphy, who, according to the WSJ, “has long been touted as a rising star at Coke.” He has worked in finance, strategy and operational roles since joining the company in 1988.

Murphy said last month that Coke needed to focus on developing a performance-based culture, building brands that connect with consumers, and moving toward an asset-light, high-margin and high-return model.

Coca-Cola also announced Thursday that Brian Smith will serve as its next chief operating officer, filling a post that had been vacant since Quincey became CEO last year.

“We’re doing the right things,” Waller, the founding chair of Coke’s Women’s Leadership Council, said. “And John [Murphy] will continue that with the organization.”