Soda giant Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) ticked downward slightly yesterday on news that President and COO Steven Heyer will leave the company. The market's reaction to the news, however -- trading volume, while higher than usual, wasn't extraordinary -- indicates that investors weren't particularly surprised by the news.

Nor should they be. Coca-Cola in late May named E. Neville Isdell, a man who's spent much of his career with or near the company, its chairman and CEO. (He comes on the heels of about four years of Douglas Daft's leadership.) It's not surprising that he might want to assemble his own management team, and the company's press release said as much.

"In discussions over the past week," said Isdell in the official missive, "Steve and I have looked at how he could best realize his personal goals given my election as chairman and chief executive officer of this company. We agreed that Steve could best realize his aspirations by pursuing opportunities outside of the company." Heyer, at any rate, will almost certainly find gainful employment if and when he chooses to (though he might have preferred Isdell's job). His experience at Coca-Cola, as well as Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Turner Broadcasting, Young & Rubicam, and Booz Allen & Hamilton, should serve him well.

Heyer is sticking around to ease the transition to a new person, but whoever fills the spot takes over a massively important job. The heads of each of Coca-Cola's main business units reported directly to Heyer and, failing a reorganization, will do so for his replacement as well. With competitors PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) and Cadbury-Schweppes (NYSE:CSG) hard-charging as always -- and the marketplace continually moving away from high-sugar staples into uncertain growth territory -- a substantial, though enviable, job awaits.

Are you sorry to see Heyer go? Talk about it on the Coca-Cola discussion board.

Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any of the companies in this story.