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Origin Story: How the West (OU) Was Won

  • Company News
  • 10 min
Dec 6, 2023
A book with pictures of coca cola and a picture of a coca cola bottle

On a Friday evening in early 2017, Bill O’Brien joined a call that would reveal to him the buyer of The Coca-Cola Company’s West Operating Unit. Before the formation of Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling, there was The Coca-Cola Company’s West Operating Unit (OU) – a company which Bill O’Brien, now the CEO of Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling, had been with for some time. He was both surprised and delighted to hear that the buyer would be a trusted industry leader, Reyes Holdings… and so the journey to join the Reyes Family of Businesses began.

For the Reyes brothers, adding the West OU to their growing Coca-Cola territories was a dream come true. They aspired to join the iconic Coca-Cola business for over 40 years before their first acquisition in 2015, after visiting Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta for over 20 years before inking their first deal. To Chris, Jude and Duke Reyes, welcoming the West OU to the Reyes Family of Businesses was an exciting challenge, a source of pride and a true testament to the ability of their hard-working teams. 

When Reyes Holdings bought the West OU in 2017, it consisted of 7,200 employees who managed the distribution of 177 million annual cases from 29 distribution centers and three combo centers (production and distribution). The transaction marked the largest acquisition in Reyes Holdings history and the magnitude of the change brought much excitement, the need to blend cultures, a bit of apprehension and a lot of hard work to both teams.

Transformation process of the old Coca Cola West logo to the new RCCB logo

The West OU deal was significant not only because of the size of the operation but also because the basics of the way business was done needed to be updated and aligned with the Reyes Family of Businesses operating model. “Covering the state of California alone is a monster task” Kurt Roemer, Chief Financial Officer at Reyes Holdings, recalls “We knew what we were getting into, and we went into it head-on. We put some of our best people in there to supplement the great people they already had working there.”

Similarly, Nick Giampietro, Chief Legal Officer, at Reyes Holdings, remembers, “When the opportunity came along to purchase the West OU, we tried to highlight to The Coca-Cola Company the reasons that we’d be the best choice. Those reasons included that we were in the state in a big way through RBG and MB. We have a lot of relationships with the customers on the West Coast – from the big box stores to the mom-and-pop shops. We were well-positioned.”

When we acquired Coca-Cola’s West OU, we knew what it could become, but were also aware that the key to success would be having the best people in place... this meant sending some of our people out there as well as making sure the Coca-Cola employees wanted to stay. This excellent leadership has made RCCB into the fantastic business it is today.

Chris & Jude ReyesCo-Founders & Co-Chairmen, Reyes Holdings

Chris and Jude Reyes, Founders and Co-Chairmen at Reyes Holdings, knew that the key to creating a successful business would be having the best people in place. After getting that Friday night call, Bill O’Brien walked into the office the following Monday to see Chris and Jude Reyes in his office asking him to stay on as CEO. They were followed shortly thereafter by Jeff Carlsen, Chief Administrative Officer at Reyes Holdings. Jeff had been tasked by the Reyes brothers with getting Bill onboard as CEO and Greg Geane (a long-time Reyes Family of Businesses employee) onboard as Chief Operating Officer.


Once leadership was in place, the Reyes Holdings team still needed to get the 7,200 new employees onboard and aware of our culture – it was truly an ‘all hands on deck’ effort! "We were able to do town halls at every location and the message was about how we operate our businesses and how we treat our employees. All the new employees got a sense of our people-first culture in these town halls. And then it was all about proving it to them,” said Jeff Carlsen.

The combination of company cultures meant that the West OU, which had a sales-centered mentality, would be blended with the industrial and entrepreneurial spirit of the Reyes Family of Businesses. “Both cultures are about high performance, high expectations and high integrity which was great for melding them together,” said Bill O’Brien.

People trust us, people know that when it’s all said and done, we’re going to do the right thing.

Duke ReyesCEO, Reyes Holdings

“In 2017 when I heard Chris, Jude and Duke talking about what we were going to turn this business into, I certainly had faith in their foresight. To see where RCCB is just six years later in 2023 is staggering. I can’t believe what this business has become,” said Kurt Roemer.