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Inside Coca-Cola    by Neville Isdell & David Beasley order for
Inside Coca-Cola
by Neville Isdell
Order:  USA  Can
Griffin, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Paperback, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I don't usually pick up business memoirs, but Inside Coca-Cola: A CEO's Life Story of Building the World's Most Popular Brand appealed to me on several fronts. Ex-Coca-Cola CEO Neville Isdell was born in Northern Ireland (my birthplace also); he worked all over the world, making this as much a travel as a business memoir; And I still remember my first taste of Coca-Cola as a small child in Malaya.

The author tells us that the soft drink was originally 'designed as a hangover and headache remedy' and that even he doesn't know its secret formula. He was actually offered the CEO position after he had started enjoying retirement life on Barbados, when the company started losing market share and faced a variety of legal problems. The former rugby player decided to take on this 'ultimate challenge' for five years.

Isdell describes his early life in Northern Ireland and Zambia. In college in South Africa, he played rugby and studied sociology, but later followed 'the lure of a business career', working for a Coke bottler, experience that would later serve him well. While in Africa, he met and married his wife Pamela, the love of his life. He describes challenges on the job and life in general in South Africa under apartheid.

The next major move was to Australia, then the Philippines (where Pepsi had gained ground and he learned 'how to rally the troops'), followed by West Germany (with lessons in market research), and then Atlanta in the U.S.. He talks about the impact on Western business of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the development of the Russian and Indian markets, telling us that he believes 'capitalism is the most potent form of foreign assistance.'

Inside Coca-Cola is fascinating, not only for the author's sagacity in business but also for his social commentary and recollections of travel and historical events. I was especially intrigued by his notion of the value and power of Connected Capitalism, working 'with government and nonprofits to build a better world'. Don't miss this intriguing and thought-provoking memoir.

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