He married Mary Frances (Overby) Winship, only child of Robert Winship, the foundry magnate.
With his brother-in-law, Joel Hurt he founded the Atlanta and Edgewood Street Railroad which ran its first electric trolleys on April 22, 1889 and Woodruff followed Hurt as president of the Trust Company in 1904 a post he held for 18 years before becoming its Chairman of the Board.
Woodruff's greatest skill was in re-organizing existing companies to improve value by increased scale:
In 1903, he combined three small ice and coal companies into the Atlanta Ice and Coal Company.
In 1910, with the help of the Trust Company he organized those types of companies from Virginia and throughout the Carolinas into the Atlantic Ice and Coal. None of these companies were able to make much money on their own with high costs of home and office deliveries but combined made handsome returns to shareholders.
Then he restructured the Atlantic Steel (current site of Atlantic Station) factory and installed Thomas Glenn to get it out of debt. The restructuring of Atlantic Steel would set the table for the biggest move of Woodruff's career: the take over of The Coca-Cola Company which he negotiated with Asa Candler.
In 1919, a group of investors headed by Ernest Woodruff and William Clark Bradley purchased The Coca-Cola Company for $25 million. The business was reincorporated as a Delaware corporation, and 500,000 shares of its common stock were sold publicly for $40 per share.
In 1923, Robert Winship Woodruff, Ernest Woodruff's son, was elected president of the Company, beginning more than six decades of active leadership in the business. Before joining the soft-drink firm, the 33-year-old Georgian had risen from truck salesman to vice president and general manager of White Motor Company.
|President of Trust Company of Georgia
1904 – 1922
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