Roberto C. Goizueta
An unusual number of Yale graduates have become chief executives of major American corporationsIBM, Procter and Gamble, Philip Morris, Weyerhaeuser, Prudential, Federal Express, Ford, and Lucent Technologies, to cite a few. And ever since the 1850s, Yale has also been enrolling students from abroad. Cuban-born Roberto Goizueta, who headed Coca-Cola for many years, had the distinction of belonging to both groups.
On graduation from Yale as a chemical engineer, Goizueta returned to Havana determined to strike out on his own. A blind ad led him to a $500–per-month job at Coca-Cola. He soon advanced to chief technical director of the company’s five bottling plants in Cuba.
When Fidel Castro came to power, Goizueta and his wife were spending a vacation in Miami. They chose not to return home, although they had nothing with them but $40 in cash and 100 shares of Coca-Cola stock. The company kept him on in Florida and then moved him to the Atlanta headquarters, where he became a vice president at 35.
By 1980 Goizueta was president and CEO. He told Fortune magazine that he had “been involved in every major decision [at Coca-Cola] since 1964.” He was Coke’s chairman and CEO until his death in 1997. His important decisions, including substitution of corn syrup for sugar, intensive marketing campaigns, the introduction of Diet Coke, and a program of diversification, led to the recovery of Coke’s leading position and a strong runup in share prices.