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John Brock not slowing down after Coca-Cola

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Feb. 24, 2017

Although he retired as CEO of Coca-Cola European Partners at the end of 2016, John Brock is not going anywhere.

Both he and his wife, Mary, plan to become even more involved in their civic and business interests, and they will continue to live in Atlanta.

In a recent interview, Brock, 68, said he is still full of energy and he plans to continue to be even more engaged in the community.

John Brock

John Brock in front of a portrait of Robert Woodruff at the Commerce Club (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Both the Brocks are involved with Horizons’ Atlanta – John as board chairman and Mary as a national board member of Horizons. The organization serves underprivileged youth by offering summer programs in partnership with public and private schools.

John Brock, a Georgia Tech alum who chaired the school’s $1.5 billion capital campaign, is the incoming chair of the Georgia Tech Foundation. Mary Brock, a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream basketball team, also serves on the board of Spelman College and the Winship Cancer Institute Advisory Board. The Brocks also serve on the host committee of Grady Healthcare Foundation’s White Coat Gala.

Brock said the real challenge is how to choose which things to do, while spending time with their children and seven grandchildren.

He also has developed an equity interest in eSports, and he is a partner in Team Envy, a multi-game eSports organization based in Charlotte, N.C.

In reflecting on CCEP, Brock said he is pleased with the transition of leadership of European bottler. The new CEO, Damian Gammell, has had broad experience running companies in the Coca-Cola system and is known by Wall Street. “He is the right leader for the job and has an outstanding management team,” Brock said.

CCEP also is well positioned for future growth and revenue creation, but added it’s too early to speculate on mergers or acquisitions of other bottlers.

CCEP is now headquartered in London instead of Atlanta, and there is a gradual phasing out of its Atlanta offices. Brock expects the investor base to shift from U.S. shareholders to European shareholders over time.

Despite Brexit (Britain’s vote to disengage from European Community), Brock said London continues to be a good base for the company – especially because it has offices in several European countries.

The real issue is the free movement of people and goods, and only time will tell how that will play out. But he added that economies and leaders are incredibly resilient.

Brock also believes Europe is poised for more meaningful growth, and he is optimistic the economy is picking up. While it’s hard to predict what will happen with the world economy, Brock said he expects that more growth will come from the developed countries rather than the developing world.

Personally, Brock said he is concerned about restrictions on global trade, and he generally follows a free market philosophy.

He will closely watch the upcoming elections in France and Germany, and he is aware of the economic and political undercurrents that could restrict the free movement of people and goods.

When it comes to U.S. politics, Brock said it is too early to tell the impact of policies such as abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership and possible friction with Mexico.

Brock referred to them as the bumps that will be overcome, and he credited people for being more resilient than they are given credit for being. He also said there are a lot of CEOs willing to work with the administration of Donald Trump, and he hopes the president will listen to them.

“The best role CEOs and Washington, D.C., can take is to proactively work with each other,” he said.

When asked about President Trump’s proposed immigration ban, he said that Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent spoke for the entire Coca-Cola system when he said, “Coca-Cola Co. is resolute in its commitment to diversity, fairness and inclusion, and we do not support this travel ban or any policy that is contrary to our core values and beliefs.”

As for U.S. relations with Russia and China, Brock said respect for each other is most important. Each country has its self-interest at heart, and U.S. foreign policy must take that into account. The number one rule in negotiation is understanding what the other side wants to gain.

As for how Atlanta fits in a global framework, Brock said it is in a remarkable place. The high level of executive involvement in the city sets it apart from other places.

Brock also praised Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of the religious freedom bill last year. If that had passed in Georgia, Brock said it would have hurt the state’s business-friendly reputation. One only has to look at North Carolina to see what impact a religious freedom bill could have had.

Another attribute that sets Atlanta apart is that it’s a city with a caring and kind nature, which Brock described as an eco-system of commerce and innovation.

CLOSER LOOK

John Brock

  • Joined Coca-Cola Enterprises in Atlanta as CEO in April 2006, before becoming company chairman in April 2008. He retired from the company, now known as Coca-Cola European Partners, at the end of 2016. Under Brock’s leadership, Coca-Cola Enterprises sold its North American operations to The Coca-Cola Co. and acquired bottling operations in Norway and Sweden, forming the world’s third-largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in 2010. Prior to joining Coca-Cola Enterprises, Brock was CEO of InBev, a global brewer, and COO of Cadbury Schweppes, an international beverage and confectionery company.
  • Attended Georgia Tech, graduating in 1970 with a degree in chemical engineering and then a Masters in chemical engineering in 1971. The John and Mary Brock Football Practice Facility is a $7 million, 80,000-square-foot facility with indoor and outdoor practice football fields that is named in honor of their support for Georgia Tech. In 2015, Mary and John Brock established an endowed chair in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE). The Brocks are now co-chairs of Campaign Georgia Tech.
  • Brock has served as a director of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., a global cruise company. From April 2007 to December 2007, he served as a director of Dow Jones & Company, Inc., a publisher and provider of global business and financial news. From 2004 to 2006, he served as a director of the Campbell Soup Co., a global manufacturer and marketer of branded convenience food products. He also served as a director of Reed Elsevier, a publisher, from 1999 to 2005.

Sources: The Coca-Cola Co., Georgia Tech.

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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