Updated: 5:23 p.m. Saturday, June 30, 2012 | Posted: 5:22 p.m. Saturday, June 30, 2012
Henry A. Schimberg, 79, former president of Coca-Cola Enterprises
By Joe Geshwiler
For the AJC
Henry A. Schimberg, 79, former president and chief executive of Coca-Cola Enterprises, a major independent bottler of Coca-Cola Co. products, has died while traveling in Europe. No other information about the circumstances of his death was available at press time.
Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Co., called Mr. Schimberg "a legendary and extraordinarily accomplished leader in our business. Known for his unflagging professionalism and commitment to executional excellence, he was instrumental in driving CCE's growth across North America and Europe. Henry was a truly remarkable and inspirational individual, both professionally and personally."
John Brock, CCE's present chief executive, said, "Henry was a special person who led courageously and inspired many throughout the years. His energy, drive and commitment to excellence were extraordinary."
To illustrate how widespread was Mr. Schimberg's reputation as a merchandising genius, Beverage Digest editor John Sicher recalled a Coca-Cola bottler he encountered in Zimbabwe in 1997.
"In a little store in a remote village," Mr. Sicher said, "he showed me a display of Coke he had set up -- 'Just like Henry Schimberg would do it,' the bottler proudly exclaimed."
Manny Goldman, an analyst with ING Barings, likened Mr. Schimberg's value to CCE to Michael Jordan's contributions to the Chicago Bulls.
"Timing is everything," Mr. Goldman told a beverage industry conference in 1999. "When Henry Schimberg took over the management reins at CCE ... the company was in a bad way. Remember, heroes are made in crises and, indeed, Henry Schimberg turned the company around and became a hero."
When Mr. Schimberg announced in 1999 his plans to retire from CCE at the end of the year, Wall Street analyst Andrew Conway commented that he was "the world's premier bottling executive. There has never been a more successful operator than Henry Schimberg."
Mr. Schimberg learned the bottling business starting at a bottom rung, driving a delivery truck for Royal Crown Bottling Co. of Chicago in 1958. Eventually he climbed to that company's presidency.
In 1982 he took an executive position with the Johnston Coca-Cola Bottling Group in Chattanooga, and over the next nine years he and its owner, Summerfield Johnston, presided over a tenfold increase in sales.
In 1991 Coca-Cola Enterprises bought the Johnston Group, and Mr. Schimberg became CCE's chief operating officer, advancing to president and chief executive officer in 1998. He is credited with playing a major role in tripling the size of CCE and raising its share of Coca-Cola case sales to 75 percent in North America and 22 percent overseas.
He decentralized much of CCE's management structure so that more decisions were made locally, closer to the point of sale.
He traveled all over the country on marketing jaunts, averaging 100 visits a week to grocery and convenience stores. In countless inspections, he checked to see how Coca-Cola products were displayed on grocery shelves and whether Coke vending machines worked flawlessly. Paying attention to details was a management maxim with him.
Mr. Schimberg's retirement didn't last long. Within weeks, he became executive chairman of Indian Motorcycle Co. and later vice chairman of Panamerican Beverages Inc., the largest bottler of Coke products for Latin America.
He also was a director of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, which provides mentoring and business advice to proprietors of small businesses, and established the Schimberg Endowment, the aim of which is to foster a strong sense of personal and business ethics among rising corporate leaders.
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