NEW YORK – Billionaire investor Warren Buffett will step down as a director of Coca-Cola Co. (COKE) this year after 17 years on the board, the world’s largest soft-drink maker said Tuesday.
Both Buffett and J. Pedro Reinhard have told Coca-Cola that they do not plan to seek re-election to the board at the upcoming annual shareholders meeting, the company said in a news release.
Buffett, who owns about 8.3 percent of Coca-Cola shares and has been on the board since 1989, cited increased demands on his time due to Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s acquisitions of companies. Berkshire Hathaway, the investment company controlled by Buffett, will maintain its Coca-Cola share holdings, the soft-drink maker said.
Buffett, an active Coca-Cola board member, was influential in the company backing out on its plans to buy Quaker Oats Co. and its crown jewel, the Gatorade sports drink, in 2000. Rival PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) eventually acquired Quaker Oats, which has been key to the No. 2 soft drink maker’s revenue and earnings growth.
Buffett also was a driving force behind the resignation of former Coke Chief Executive M. Douglas Ivester in 1999, according to published reports at the time.
Following Buffet and Reinhard’s decision, three of Coke’s 14 directors will not be standing for re-election this year.
Last November, another Coke director, Maria Elena Lagomasino, said she would not stand for reelection to the board following a request from her new employer.