The journey back north gave me time to read Constance Hays expose of the accidental success that is the Coca-Cola company Pop: Truth and Power at the Coca-Cola Company.
The book was a bit repetitive in parts and could have been reined in with some proper direction and editing. Despite these flaws it provided an interesting insight into how a company had become such a colossal success in spite of itself and a parable on what happens when you try and shaft distribution channel partners.
The company used interesting accounting arrangements and stuffed its distribution channel in order to deliver results. It used an off-balance sheet transaction to set up a separate distribution company and then buy up its partners bottling operations. Eventually this arrangement together with product disasters like New Coke and Dasani caught up with them
Unlike Enron these weren’t bad people, they were just trying to keep Coke the success it had always been in a world increasing dominated by savvy consumers and operators like WalMart that have a touch of the night about them. Where it gets interesting is how someone like Warren Buffett could get taken for the ride.
It is full of high-drama like directors being called to meetings in distant aircraft hangars, being fired by key shareholders and then all of them going home in their own Gulfstream jets – quality, you couldn’t make it up even if you wanted to.