Coca-Cola CEO to Retire

ATLANTA - Coca-Cola Co. chairman and chief executive Doug Daft said Thursday he plans to retire at the end of 2004.

Daft did not elaborate on his decision in a statement issued by the company and did not make himself available for further comment. A board member said the 60-year-old Daft felt it is the right time for him to leave.

In his statement, Daft said Coke has faced significant challenges since he was appointed in 1999 to the top position at Coca-Cola.

"Today our brands are stronger and our global production and marketing system has been restored to health," the statement said. "I am proud of what we have accomplished."

The Atlanta-based company faces an ongoing criminal investigation by federal prosecutors into fraud allegations raised in a whistleblower lawsuit. The Securities and Exchange Commission also is investigating.

Daft did not say if the investigation led to his decision, but board member Jimmy Williams insisted that the investigation had nothing to do with Daft's decision.

"Everything's positive," Williams told reporters in a conference call.

Daft said he would assist the board of directors in its search for his successor. No time frame was set for the process to be completed.
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