In 1954, Roberto C. Goizueta answered a help-wanted advertisement for a chemical engineer in a Havana newspaper and went to work for The Coca-Cola Co. Twenty-six years later, the Cuban-born executive triumphed in a bruising battle for Coke's top job. Named president in May of 1980 and elected chairman and chief executive 10 weeks later, Goizueta had overcome long odds and bested worthy rivals to command one of the world's great enterprises.
But Goizueta could hardly afford to rest on his laurels. The company he headed was mired in a hodgepodge of unrelated ventures, from shrimp farming to winemaking. Its crucial bottler system was badly decayed, with important markets left in the hands of weak operators. There was no strategic vision, and creativity was stifled by a blind adherence to tradition and a refusal to take risks. Worst of all, Coke's stock had fallen by half, and the company was barely turning a profit.
Over the next 12 months, in a period of astonishing activity, Goizueta set in motion a series of initiatives that would set the course for Coca-Cola for the next 17 years. From the time he became chief executive until his death in 1997, Coke's sales more than quadrupled, from $4 billion to $18 billion, while its market capitalization ballooned from $4.3 billion to $180 billion, a staggering 3,500% increase. The blueprint for that record--one of Corporate America's best--was largely drawn up during Goizueta's first months in office.
Note: Presented here exclusively for readers of Business Week Online is Chapter 3 "The Spanish Inquisition" in its entirety, instead of the excerpt that appears in the April 13, 1998, issue of Business Week.