The Pause That Refreshes
After less than two years, Minnick had scored successes. She helped launch drinks like Coca-Cola Blak and Enviga, a green tea beverage developed with Nestle. She fired the company's ad agency and oversaw the acclaimed "Coke Side of Life" advertising campaign.
In the end, Minnick helped align Coke with what consumers wanted. "The fruits of her labors are still being born," Swartzberg says. And in an internal memo, Isdell credited Minnick's team with creating an "enduring pipeline of innovation."
Still, Isdell picked Muhtar Kent, 54, as second in charge and his possible successor as CEO.Even though the CEO spot might one day have been hers, Minnick says, "I'm not sure waiting at Coke made sense."
Minnick acknowledges often butting heads with colleagues: "There were things I wanted to do and accomplish, so I was very focused and driven," she says. In 2000, when her cost cutting raised hackles in Coke's Asia division, then CEO Douglas Daft flew to Japan to support her, telling critics, "This woman will be here longer than you."
So Minnick's refocus toward the personal side of life might seem surprising. But she contends it was a slow evolution that mirrored trends in society. Early in her career, women were entering the corporate world in greater numbers, working hard to earn the respect of male colleagues and even sometimes dressing like them. "I must have had 50 different bow ties," Minnick says.
But as the hard-charging style of the 1980s, when Minnick moved to a different country every couple of years, gave way to the 1990s idea of balance, Minnick also started thinking about life outside work. Then, three years ago, during a fishing trip in England's Hampshire countryside, she met Simon Cooper, who owns a fly-fishing tour company and is now her partner. "It completely changed what was important to me," Minnick says.
Minnick doesn't wear bow ties these days, but she's not hanging up her business suits anytime soon. "I'm not ready to consult or just sit on boards or do nonprofits," she says. She has found her role at Lion Capital, which invests in consumer companies like Kettle Foods, Orangina, and Weetabix. "I'm not hung up on the title of CEO," she says, "but I have reached a point where I want to have a direct line of influence on what a company is and where it heads."