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Sol Daurella prevails over Marcos de Quinto in Coca-Cola power struggle

Teresa Sánchez

Catalan businesswoman Sol Daurella has beat Marcos de Quinto in the Coca-Cola power struggle. Daurella is the chairman of Coca-Cola Iberian Partners, the soft drink company's sole bottler, and also its core shareholder (the family owns more than one-third of capital), while De Quinto is president of Coca-Cola España, the US giant's Spanish subsidiary.  

They went head-to-head over a labor force adjustment plan implemented by the bottling company, which will lead to the closure of four plants in Spain (Madrid, Alicante, Palma de Mallorca and Oviedo) and theoretically affect 1,250 workers. Reliable sources confirmed that Daurella demanded from the beginning that the brand participate in the process and that De Quinto undertake the communication strategy, assuming the personal cost of lay-offs vis-à-vis the government, political parties, unions and the media.

De Quinto rejected that role and even tried to disassociate the bottling company from Coca-Cola, saying that his company was not cutting jobs and that Iberian Partners management needed to take responsibility. He was successful at first, and was even able to arrange it so that the brand's name didn't appear in some media releases.

But then the tide turned. Daurella took control of the situation with a very clear demand: "Marcos de Quinto gets paid to manage institutional relations and he must step up to the plate", she said. In the last few days, and despite continuous public statements that Iberian Partners and Coca-Cola are two different companies, De Quinto was forced to give in. He convened with members of the central government, spoke with regional authorities involved in the process and even met with workers to explain the bottling company's decision which, in one way or another, directly involves the brand. These are actions ordered directly by Daurella, which neither she nor Victor Rufart, general manager of the bottling company, have undertaken.

But there's more. Sources at Coca-Cola Iberian Partners claim that Marcos de Quinto's days at the helm are numbered and that he may leave the company in the short term, once the restructuring plan is fully executed. There's considerable concern at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta about the conflict between the bottling company and the Spanish subsidiary.

Although Coca-Cola chairman Muthar Kent maintains that De Quinto will stay, his exit could look like a concession to Iberian Partners, after having agreed to a merger to create a new company.

The multinational is also worried that this disagreement will jeopardize its interests and damage the brand's image. For the moment, the company has been forced to modify its initial restructuring plan. In addition to reducing the number of affected workers, the lay-offs have been cancelled. Instead, the company increased the number of early retirements, reducing the age limit from 58 to 56, and is also offering relocations to other plants. Employees who opt for voluntary redundancy will receive 45 days' wages per year worked, capped at 42 months, and an additional 10,000 euros. However, the company still plans to close the four plants in Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Oviedo and Alicante.

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