The real boss behind Coke’s secret formula

great relationships constitute the real secret formula of enduring business success.

Fortune

If you could line up all the senior executives inside Fortune 500 companies over the years and rate them by power and influence, one guy would stand ahead of most of the CEOs—and outrank every other executive who vied for the brass ring and, like him, never got it.

Donald R. Keough, the former president and COO of Coca-Cola who died Tuesday at age 88, was arguably the most powerful non-CEO in recent memory. Guiding Coke’s global expansion and steering the company through management upheaval, Keough outlived a parade of Coke chiefs and probably mattered more than any of them.

Warren Buffett recalls the moment 30 years ago when Coca-Cola [fortune-stock symbol=”KO”] made one of the worst blunders in marketing history—by replacing flagship Coke with a new formula, calling it New Coke, and resisting a firestorm of consumer anger. Roberto Goizueta was CEO back then, and Keough was his president…

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