Coca-Cola's Former CEO Was One of the First to Notice Chobani -- Here's the Backstory

Chobani Founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya revealed on Tuesday that one of the first people to congratulate him on his success was Coca-Cola (KO) Chairman Muhtar Kent, and their relationship has sustained since. "He was the first person to call me when I was living in upstate New York making yogurt," Ulukaya said at a conference hosted at the Nasdaq by the Turkish Philanthropy Funds. Chobani was formed in 2005 after Ulukaya, now worth $1.64 billion, bought the company's first manufacturing plant in New Berlin, New York.

Ulukaya said "no one knew who I was," when the former CEO of Coca-Cola called, so he was shocked when his employee said, "'there's this gentleman Muhtar Kent on the phone, he wants to talk to you.' Of course I knew who that was."

Kent, according to Ulukaya, congratulated him on his success thus far and offered his guidance, "his open door," if he ever needed it.

"And he always stayed in touch," Ulukaya said. "Muhtar is extremely important to me."

In 2015, talk circulated that Coca-Cola and rival PepsiCo  (PEP) were both considering taking a majority stake in Chobani. The Greek yogurt maker would likely have been valued at as much as $3 billion.

Kent was the CEO of Coca-Cola from 2008 until May 1, when he was replaced by the former beverage giant's president and COO, James Quincey. Kent is also scheduled to speak at Tuesday's event.

Lindsay Rittenhouse,

(Photo: Hamdi Ulukaya listens Muhtar Kent's speech at TPF innovation summit. Photo by Cemil Ozyurt)









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