The olive tree lover CEO of Coca Cola from Ayvalık
Muhtar Kent, the charismatic CEO of Coca Cola, which is the world’s most precious brand in 2012 worth $78 billion, has never cut off ties with his ancestral Turkey, despite being born and bred in the U.S, where still resides.
In 2005, Muhtar Kent was appointed president and chief operating officer of the company’s North Asia, Eurasia and Middle East Group. He became Chief Executive Officer in 2008, and took on the title of Chairman of the Board in 2009.
Since that year, he has been indisputably one of the top 10 CEOs of the world and Muhtar Kent has a special place in my heart.
Apart from the fact that I have known him since my youth, the main reason that I feel the way I do is due to his being one of the fiercest defenders of gender equality in the world.
According to Kent, the driving force in the 21st century will not be China or India - it will be women.
The CEO of Coca Cola is right because in developing countries alone, live around 25 million women.
In these countries, the middle class is rapidly getting richer and it is women who will go out shopping and spend the money earned.
Muhtar Kent, with every chance he gets, manages to channel discourse toward the status of women. He reiterates how important it is for the economy to ensure the participation of women in the workforce and female representation among the upper echelons of companies in the corporate world.
In speeches he has delivered in his capacity as the Co-chair of the World Economic Forum, I have witnessed countlessly his constant fuelling of the subject; Kent is also an indispensable figure in the forum’s gender equality meetings.
If I am not wrong, at the moment, the number of female employees in Coca Cola’s Turkish office has exceeded the number of men.
Muhtar Kent and I met for breakfast two days ago at one of the prettiest, cutest districts of the Aegean, Ayvalık, during the traditional olive harvest.
Muhtar Kent, whose mother’s side of the family is from Ayvalık for a few generations, had attended the olive harvest for the first time in 12 years on the day of our meeting.
Kent’s grandfather, Sezai Ömer Madra, is the first olive oil producer of the Republican Era. Kent owns his own olive groves in Ayvalık, so for the CEO of Coca Cola the olive business is a family tradition.
During our breakfast at the popular boutique hotel Sızma Han in Ayvalık, he himself said, “My grandfather used to say that one would not be able to live somewhere where there are no olive trees. For centuries, the olive tree has been associated with welfare and culture.”
He added, “I am proud to be from Ayvalık. You have to know where you come from in order to know where you are going.”
Muhtar Kent, as the CEO of Coca Cola is at a different corner of the world every day. As a matter of fact, after Ayvalık, he was flying to Dubai with his private plane accompanied by his wife Defne Kent.
However, wherever he goes, his return destination of choice is always: Ayvalık.