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Green Mountain appoints Coke executive as CEO

Green Mountain Coffee single-serve K-Cups are pictured in New York, in this May 3, 2012, file photo. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files
Green Mountain Coffee single-serve K-Cups are pictured in New York, in this May 3, 2012, file photo. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files

(Reuters) - Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc appointed Coca-Cola Co executive Brian Kelley to its top post, betting on a products specialist to replace Lawrence Blanford who has led the company since 2007.

Kelley's appointment follows an almost eight-month CEO search after Blanford told the board in February he planned to retire.

Shares of the maker of Keurig single-serve coffee brewers rose as much as 11 percent to $30.23 in early trading on the Nasdaq on Tuesday.

Green Mountain investors will be looking at Kelley to turn around the business at a time when the company is facing increased competition from low-cost rivals after some of its patents expired and it is fending off questions about its business model and accounting practices.

Kelley, 51, has been the chief product supply officer for Coca Cola Refreshments (CCR) -- the unit that represents most of the company's North American business -- since October 2010, and was slated to take over as president of the unit next January.

In an internal memo sent by CCR CEO Steve Cahillane to management on Monday, Glen Walter was named president.

John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, said while Kelley was a talented executive whose departure is a loss for Coke, Walter would be a strong replacement.

"Coke won't miss a beat," Sicher said.

Green Mountain will pay Kelley an annual base salary of $900,000 and a signing bonus of $600,000, the company said in a regulatory filing. Under his employment agreement, Kelley is also eligible to earn annual cash bonus with a target of 100 percent of his annual base salary.

Under Blanford's reign, the company rose from a little-known Vermont-based coffee maker to one of the fastest-growing U.S. companies, following its 2006 acquisition of Keurig, a manufacturer of single-cup coffee machines.

Green Mountain's market value has increased five-fold since Blanford took the top job from founder Robert Stiller in 2007. But shares have fallen 41 percent this year.

(The story corrects paragraph 4 to make clear only some of the company's patents have expired. Incorporates an earlier correction that fixed the first name of Coke unit's new president)

(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bangalore and Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Supriya Kurane and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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