Magazine article Newsweek

Coca-Cola's Holy Grail; Stolen Trade Secrets, Two Guilty Pleas and a Pending Trial Raise Questions about an Old Soft-Drink Legend

Magazine article Newsweek

Coca-Cola's Holy Grail; Stolen Trade Secrets, Two Guilty Pleas and a Pending Trial Raise Questions about an Old Soft-Drink Legend

Article excerpt

Byline: Jessica Ramirez With Catharine Skipp

In a vault in the bowels of a SunTrust Bank in Atlanta lies one of the most sacred secrets in the business world: the 120-year-old formula for Coca-Cola. That is the one certainty about the mysterious recipe. Everything else surrounding it--the need for a vote by Coke's board of directors to open the vault, for example--may be urban legend. Attempts to confirm additional information with the Coca-Cola Co. are met with an obvious reply: "Well, then it wouldn't be a secret," says company spokeswoman Crystal Walker.

Myth or not, at least three people recently risked jail time to breech the company's air of mystery. Ibrahim Dimson, 30, and Edmund Duhaney, 43, could each face up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty last week in a plot to sell Coca-Cola trade secrets to Pepsi for $1.5 million. The men were co-conspirators in a scheme allegedly hatched by Joya Williams--a former administrative assistant at Coca-Cola's Atlanta headquarters. The trio's shenanigans fizzled when Pepsi alerted Coca-Cola, which then contacted the FBI. Williams, 41, who had worked at Coca-Cola for 14 months and maintains her innocence, is awaiting trial.

The alleged caper involved unspecified documents and samples of yet-to-be introduced products, not the secret formula. But the incident is sparking fresh questions about whether the formula is an actual trade secret or mystical marketing. …

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