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Commentary: Coca-Cola, Atlanta still together after 130 years

Original story on WABE by Maria Saporta.

The Coca-Cola Co. will turn 130 years old on May 8, and there’s no company that brands Atlanta more than the beverage giant. As goes Coke, so goes Atlanta – and vice versa.

So holding this year’s annual meeting at the World of Coca-Cola for the first time was symbolic. The company was bringing its shareowners into the home they built. Not only was the meeting held there, the company opened the doors of the attraction for a special Shareowners Day at the World of Coca-Cola.

Credit Justin Taylor / flickr.com/bludgeoner86

Credit Justin Taylor / flickr.com/bludgeoner86

Somehow, the Coca-Cola magic worked. Even one of the company’s most vocal critics approved. Ray Rogers, head of what he calls the “Campaign to Stop Killer Coke,” said, “Congratulations. Shareowner Day is a brilliant idea. I can’t think of a better venue to hold this annual meeting rather than right here.”

Muhtar Kent, CEO of the Coca-Cola Co., said the company soon would be celebrating its 130th anniversary at the site of the old Jacobs Pharmacy at Five Points – only a few blocks away. It was hard to deny the company’s ties to Atlanta.

Kent told shareholders that in the past 10 years, the company has invested almost $160 million in Atlanta.

But here is the irony. For the past 35 years, most of Coca-Cola’s leaders have come from other countries. Roberto Goizueta was from Cuba. Doug Daft is from Australia. Neville Isdell is from Ireland. Muhtar Kent is from Turkey. And his heir-apparent, James Quincey, is from England.

Quincey had gotten the message. In his comments to shareholders, he spoke of Coca-Cola’s history and reaffirmed its future with Atlanta.

That is what makes this Coke-Atlanta relationship so special. The worlds of Coca-Cola, both literally and figuratively, intersect in downtown Atlanta.

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