The CEO of The Coca-Cola Co. is set to stand down next year.

Neville Isdell, who returned to the company as its head in June 2004, announced today (6 December) that he will vacate the chief executive position in July next year, to be succeeded by current president and COO, Muhtar Kent.

Isdell, who also currently holds the position of chairman, will continue in the role until Coca-Cola's annual meeting in April 2009.

An Irish citizen, Isdell, joined the Coca-Cola system in Zambia in 1966. After holding positions in South Africa, Australia, and The Philippines, he was named president of the company's Central European division, based in Germany, in 1985. From 1989 to 1998 as group president for north-east Europe, the Middle East and Africa and one of five executives operating the worldwide business, Isdell was responsible for opening or re-opening new markets in India, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

In 1995 he was named president of the Greater Europe group. Isdell left the company in 1998 to serve as chairman of Coca-Cola Beverages, a company that went public the same year. In 2000, he negotiated a merger with Hellenic Bottling Company to form Coca-Cola HBC, and became its chief executive officer. He left CCHBC at the end of 2001.

Kent, meanwhile, returned to Coca-Cola in May 2005 as president of the north Asia, Eurasia and Middle East group. He was named president of Coca-Cola International in January 2006 and appointed president and COO of the company in December.

Kent first joined Coca-Cola in 1978 and held a variety of marketing and operational roles leading to his appointment as president of the east central European division in 1989. He held this position until 1995, when he left to become managing director of Coca-Cola Amatil Europe. From 1999 until his return to the company, Kent served as president and CEO of the Efes Beverage Group, one of Europe's largest international beverage businesses, and managing partner of Coca-Cola Icecek, a public Coca-Cola bottling company with franchises in Turkey and surrounding countries.

"The opportunity to lead The Coca-Cola Company is an extraordinary honor, and I am grateful to the board for the confidence it has placed in me," said Kent. "I look forward to building on the strong foundation for sustainable growth that we have set in place for the Coca-Cola system around the world."