In brutal pandemic year for Atlanta’s Coca-Cola, CEO’s pay barely dips

ORIGINAL CAPTION: November 28, 2014 Atlanta - Picture shows Coca-Cola Company Headquarters in Atlanta on Friday, November 28, 2014. Coca-Cola reported $233 million in tax breaks in 2011-2013 - almost 15% of its federal tax bill - related to giving its management stock options and restricted stock. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

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Coca-Cola Co., headquartered in Atlanta, has taken a financial beating during the coronavirus pandemic. But company Chief Executive Officer James Quincey's total compensation dipped only slightly in 2020 compared to the year before. He benefited from an increased allotment of long-term stock and option awards. And he and many Coke managers received a special pandemic-related bonus. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co.’s financial results have taken a dive during the pandemic. But CEO James Quincey, whose compensation is normally tightly tied to Coke’s financial performance, saw only a slight dip in his pay last year.

Quincey’s total compensation was $18.38 million in 2020, a drop of less than 2% from a year earlier, according to filings the company made Thursday.

Last year, the company cut about 2,200 employee positions eliminated around the globe as Coke sped up plans for a reorganization that involved both voluntary separations and layoffs.

As the pandemic cut into business at restaurants and public venues, Coke’s revenue and profits sank, and it suffered its steepest annual decline in the volume of drinks sold since the 1940s.

The results meant that Quincey didn’t meet the criteria to earn one incentive that garnered him more than $5 million a year earlier.

But he and other top executives were awarded special one-time payments equal to 30% of annual target bonus amounts. A Coke board of director’s committee said the payouts were “appropriate based on improved performance trends in the second half of the year, the resilience of leaders in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and strategic efforts” to reorganize.

Many other Coke employees, including most of those in metro Atlanta, also were awarded one-time bonuses for performance tied to the pandemic. They received 50% of target amounts, according to a notice obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Quincey was aided even more by a boost in long-term incentives of stock awards and options that were set by the Coke board committee in February of last year, early in the coronavirus’ rampage. That same month, Coke predicted a short-term decrease in sales and profits but that it would still meet its projections for 2020.