Irish-born businessman Neville Isdell is to retire as chairman of the board of Coca-Cola.

Isdell, 65, a native of Downpatrick in Northern Ireland, was with the soft drinks company for 43 years.

He will be succeeded by Muhtar Kent, who was elected as chairman of the board at the company’s annual meeting of share holders, held in Atlanta on Wednesday.

Presiding director of Coca-Cola, James Robinson said: "On behalf of the Coca-Cola family, I'd like to thank Neville for the exemplary leadership he brought to our Company, and his 43 years of dedicated service to our system.

“Neville guided our Company through a very difficult period, and while his accomplishments were numerous, he will be forever remembered for bringing back the winning spirit to Coca-Cola.”

Isdell had worked for Coca-Cola in four continents and held a variety of different positions.

HIs family emigrated to Zambia from Northen Ireland when he was just 10 and he joined the Coca-Cola corporation in Africa when he was 21.

In 1972, he became general manager of Coca-Cola Bottling of Johannesburg -- the largest Coca-Cola bottler in Africa, and was named region manager for Australia in 1980.

He led the company's entry into new markets in India, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and in 1995, he was named he was named president of the Greater Europe Group.

From July 1998 to September 2000, he served as chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola in Britain.

In June 2004, he was elected chairman, Board of Directors, and CEO of Coca-Cola.

In a recent interview, he said: “We Irish are community people. To put it simply, we love a good party. We love life, but we love open debate too. With that aspect of Irish business, the hierarchical nature of things gets broken.”