Column: Coke bottler’s board now boasts four women

By Maria Saporta
Friday, April 30, 2010

Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. has become the first and only public company in Georgia with four women on its board.

The company added two women directors this year: Veronique Morali, chairman of Fimalac Développement, parent company of the international financial services organization Fitch Group, joined the board in February; and Phoebe Wood, a principal at CompaniesWood, a consulting firm specializing in early-stage investments, joined the board April 22.

The other two women already on CCE’s board are Suzanne Labarge, retired vice chairman and chief risk officer of RBC Financial Group and a director since 2007; and Donna James, president of Lardon & Associates LLC and a director since 2005.

Women now make up 36 percent of CCE’s 11-director board. Only 10 other public companies in the country have as high or higher percentage of women on their boards, according to Fortune Magazine’s 2009 Catalyst Census. Not surprisingly, Avon Products has the highest percentage of women on its board — 45 percent — or five out of 11 directors.

Up until now, only one Georgia company had as many as three women directors on its board, according to the Board of Directors Network, which keeps track of the diversity on corporate boards. That’s The Coca-Cola Co., which has a total of 14 directors, meaning women make up 21 percent of its board.

Asked at the company’s annual meeting on April 23 about CCE having more women directors than any other public company in Georgia, CCE CEO John Brock said, “I’m excited about it, but that’s not why we did it.” He went on to elaborate on the expertise Morali and Wood bring to the board.

High-speed at Asbury

Asbury Automotive Group Inc.’s annual meeting in Duluth on April 27 barely lasted five minutes, and not one outside shareholder showed up.

Asbury moved its headquarters from New York to Duluth in 2008. At the time, the company was No. 421 on the Fortune 500 list. In 2009, it dropped down to 486. And in the most recent 2010 listings, Asbury ranked No. 532. But the mood was upbeat.

By the way, Asbury’s general counsel is Elizabeth Chandler, who also chairs the Atlanta BeltLine Inc. board.

Riddle, Ward leave AGL board

AGL Resources Inc. said goodbye to two of its longest-serving directors at its annual meeting on April 27. Both directors had reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

Raymond Riddle, former president of Wachovia-Georgia, has been on AGL’s board for 32 years. During his tenure, he served as chairman of the board on two different occasions and as the company’s interim CEO. “The industry sure has changed,” Riddle said after the meeting.

Felker Ward has had a multifaceted career — from working as an Army pilot, as a lawyer, as an investment adviser and a long-term community leader. He has served on AGL’s board for 22 years.

“It’s been a great run,” said Ward, who served under five different CEOs. “In 22 years, we have gone from a small local distribution company to one of the largest natural gas producers in the country.”

Rollins on the uptick

It was business as usual at Rollins Inc.’s annual meeting, also held on April 27. The meeting lasted about six minutes, and not one outside shareholder showed up either.

Rollins Inc. re-elected three board members to another three-year term, including Wilton Looney, retired CEO of Genuine Parts Co., who recently turned 91.

“I think they’re crazy,” Looney said about the company renominating him.

But Chairman Randall Rollins had a different perspective. “We are so proud of Wilton Looney,” said Rollins, who added that Looney is one of the smartest guys in town and that the company is lucky to have him serve another three years.

Meanwhile, fellow director Jimmy Williams, retired CEO of SunTrust Banks Inc., said he was pleased with Rollins Inc.’s performance. “They’ve got spectacular results in all three of their companies,” he said. Rollins did admit that it has been a “tough year,” but he also said the company is “on the uptick.”

Green for green

EarthShare of Georgia recently celebrated Earth Day (or should one say Earth Week?) with several events, including the Eighth Annual Leadership Breakfast on April 23.

EarthShare is similar to a United Way for environmental organizations. It currently supports 62 environmental organizations through its workplace giving campaigns. EarthShare began in 1993 as the Environmental Fund for Georgia, and then it affiliated with the national EarthShare organization. It has raised about $4 million since its inception.

Currently EarthShare conducts about 70 workplace campaigns, and it has been raising about $450,000 to $500,000 each year. “We have been pretty flat despite the economy, and it’s starting to show an increase,” according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Patrick.

Rialto Pioneers

Ken and Kathy Bernhardt will receive the 2010 Rialto Pioneer Award on May 1 at the Rialto’s season-closing night.

Kathy Bernhardt is a community volunteer who has been involved in several nonprofits, including the Alliance Children’s Theatre. Her husband, Georgia State University professor (and Atlanta Business Chronicle columnist) Ken Bernhardt, has also been involved with civic and nonprofit organizations such as Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre, Junior Achievement of Georgia, the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and The Community Foundation.

Cousins honored

Tom Cousins received the Council on Foundations’ 2010 Board Chair’s Award, which honors business leaders who have transformed their home communities through their philanthropic work. Cousins is being recognized for the redevelopment of the East Lake community and for co-founding Purpose Built Communities with Warren Buffett and Julian Robertson.

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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