Column: Board appointment strengthens ties between Coke, Delta

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on August 7, 2015

Back in January 1991, when then-Delta Air Lines CEO Ron Allen was named to the board of The Coca-Cola Co., it provided a closer link between two signature Atlanta companies.

Now Delta has made a similar move. The airline announced July 24 that Kathy N. Waller, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Coca-Cola, is joining its board.

“Kathy brings an impressive financial career with another of Atlanta’s global business institutions,” Daniel A. Carp, Delta’s non-executive chairman, said in a statement. “We are excited that Kathy is adding her talent, knowledge and experience to Delta’s strong and independent board of directors.”

Before being appointed CFO, Waller served as Coca-Cola’s controller and vice president of finance. She joined the company in 1987 as a senior accountant. Prior to joining the Coca-Cola Co., Waller worked for the firm now known as Deloitte.

With the selection of Waller, that now brings the number of Atlanta directors on Delta’s board to three. There is former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, chair of Purpose Built Communities, who joined the board in 2011. And there is Frank Blake, the retired CEO of The Home Depot, who joined Delta’s board on July 25, 2014.

But Atlanta has lost one friend from Delta’s board: Paula Rosput Reynolds, who was CEO of AGL Resources before moving to Seattle, stepped down from the airline’s board on June 25.

By the way, Ron Allen, who left Delta as CEO in 1997 and who later became president and CEO of Aaron’s Inc. (until August 2014), is still on Coca-Cola’s board. He is the second-longest serving director on the Coke board — after Herbert A. Allen, CEO of Allen & Co. Herb Allen has been on Coca-Cola’s board since 1982.

Home Depot’s board

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s representation on the board of Home Depot is still missing.

The home improvement company announced on Aug. 5 that it had named Gerard Arpey to its board. Arpey, who will serve on the board’s finance, nominating and corporate governance committees, is now one of Home Depot’s 11 directors.

The only director who calls Atlanta home is the one inside director — Craig Menear, the company’s chairman, president and CEO.

And Arpey actually was a competitor of Delta’s. He is the former CEO and chairman of AMR Corp. and American Airlines, where he worked for nearly 30 years. He currently is a partner in Emerald Creek Group LLC, a private equity firm based in Southern California. He joined that firm in 2012 after retiring from AMR.

“I’m pleased to welcome Gerard to our board, where his extensive experience in organizational management, strategy and finance will serve our company and shareholders well,” Menear said in a statement.

Navy Admiral James ‘Sandy’ Winnefeld and Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs has named Navy Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld a distinguished professor. Winnefield just retired as vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In his new role, Winnefeld also will serve as a senior fellow in the school’s Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy, which focuses on policy research.

“We have already benefited greatly from Admiral Winnefeld’s expertise and experience in his role on the Georgia Tech Advisory Board, and are looking forward to his expanded role with the Institute,” said Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson in a statement. “The richness of his leadership experience and his global perspective will be invaluable to our students, faculty and staff, along with the Atlanta community. We enthusiastically welcome him home to his alma mater.”

Winnefeld graduated from Georgia Tech in 1978 with a degree in aerospace engineering. He retired from his position as the nation’s second highest-ranking military officer on July 31. He will be based near Washington, D.C., at the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s office in Rosslyn, Va. Winnefeld will also have an office on the Georgia Tech campus in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

“I am very pleased to join the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and CISTP,” said Winnefeld. “I’ve long been an admirer of Senator Nunn’s, and look forward to working with ­— and continuing to learn from — him. I’m also excited to lend my energy and experience to a very talented group of faculty and students. It’s especially gratifying to be able to do so at an institution that gave so much to me as an undergraduate.”

“Admiral Winnefeld is one of our nation’s most distinguished and valuable military leaders, and is now returning to his home base at Georgia Tech,” Sam Nunn said in a statement. “This is great news for the Nunn School and the Institute.”

Nobel Peace Summit

It’s official. There will be a World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in 2015. It just won’t be in Atlanta.

The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates announced on July 29 that it will hold the 15th edition of its annual gathering in Barcelona, Spain from Nov. 13 to Nov. 15. The Summit invites all the recipients — both individuals and organizations — who have been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. (The one Nobel Laureate in Atlanta is former U.S. President Jimmy Carter).

Originally Atlanta had been awarded the 2015 World Summit — and top local business and civic leaders had been planning to host the event from Nov. 15 to Nov. 19.

But then there was a falling out between leaders in Atlanta and the organizer of the event — Yunus Creative Labs — headed by Mohammad Bhuiyan as CEO, and his wife, Shamima Amin, the chief operating officer. The divide became so great that even Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus resigned as chairman of Yunus Creative Labs.

Several attempts to reach a compromise with Bhuiyan and Amin by several CEOs — including the top leadership of the Rotary Club of Atlanta, were unsuccessful. Finally on June 1, the Atlanta Rotary board voted unanimously to not proceed with plans to host the 2015 Summit.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who had already pulled his support of a Summit led by Bhuiyan, expressed his disappointment, but agreed with Rotary’s decision.

It is unclear whether Atlanta will try to host the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in a future year.

Larry Thompson

Larry D. Thompson, former U.S. deputy attorney general and PepsiCo general counsel, has joined the Atlanta-based law firm of Finch McCranie LLP as counsel.

Thompson was appointed Deputy Attorney General of the United States in 2001 by President George W. Bush. Most recently, Thompson served as senior vice president for Government Affairs and General Counsel for PepsiCo.

He continues to serve as the John A. Sibley Professor of Corporate and Business Law at The University of Georgia.

Prior to serving as U.S. deputy attorney general, Thompson was a partner with the Atlanta-based law firm of King & Spalding LLP, and was co-founder of the firm’s special matters and government investigations practice. In 2000, Congress selected Thompson to chair the bi-partisan Judicial Review Commission on foreign Asset Control, and in 2004, he served as a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

“Larry Thompson has unparalleled experience as a lawyer and counselor in both the public and private sectors, and is well known for his superb legal abilities and highest ethical standards,” said Richard Hendrix, a partner with the firm. “Partner Steven R. Wisebram and I had the pleasure of working with Larry when he was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, and Steve and I were federal prosecutors. Larry also worked with partner Michael A. Sullivan in investigating and prosecuting fraud and abuse at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the late 1990s, and again when they collaborated on a major public corruption case. We are all thrilled to join forces with Larry again and welcome him to Finch McCranie.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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