Filling a vacancy of nearly 20 months, Visa U.S.A. has named Michael A. Beindorff executive vice president of marketing and product management.

Mr. Beindorff, 43, officially took the job at Visa's San Francisco headquarters May 1. He reports to president Carl Pascarella.

"His background and marketing credentials speak for themselves," said Mr. Pascarella, pointing to Mr. Beindorff's "17 years of experience building and managing some of the world's best known trademarks and brands."

Among other accomplishments, Mr. Beindorff from 1984 to 1991 was responsible for Diet Coke, which subsequently won the "Brand of the Decade" award from Advertising Age. In 1989, also while at the Coca-Cola Co., he was named advertising executive of the year by Frollinger's Marketing Strategist, a trade publication.

The top Visa U.S.A. marketing job - one of three executive vice presidencies under Mr. Pascarella - had been open since Bradford Morgan resigned in September 1993, less than a month after Mr. Pascarella succeeded H. Robert Heller as president.

Although Mr. Morgan, then 47, said a long-held desire to run his own business prompted his departure, some industry observers attributed his exit to the arrival of a new guard. Shortly thereafter, Edmund P. Jensen became president of Visa International following Charles T. Russell's retirement.

Mr. Morgan, who like Mr. Beindorff has a consumer products and branding background, joined Promus Cos.' Harrah's casino division last year as an executive vice president.

Mr. Beindorff said his first priority with Visa is to get acclimated to a new industry.

"I'm not a banker by trade, so I've got a lot to learn," he said. "But I've spent 17 years tending to every facet of marketing. This experience will serve me well."

Mr. Beindorff said Visa offered him "a unique opportunity to build a premium brand in a technologically forward environment. From a consumer's standpoint, I've looked at them for many years and always admired them."

He anticipates that he will "help Visa get out its vision of the marketplace" and "strengthen the bond between the brand and end users."

Mr. Beindorff came to Visa from Rhodes Furniture Inc. in Atlanta, where he had been senior vice president of marketing since 1993. There, Visa said, he initiated "the most aggressive marketing campaign in the 120-year history" of Rhodes - the fourth-largest furniture retailer in the United States.

Before he joined Rhodes, Mr. Beindorff spent 14 years with Atlanta-based Coca-Cola in a variety of positions, including vice president and director of advertising and marketing for Coca-Cola USA.

In 1991, he helped start the global marketing department, overseeing design and staffing while directing Coke's first truly global advertising.

Mr. Beindorff, a graduate of the University of Alabama, received a master's in business administration from Atlanta's Emory University in in 1978. He has served on the boards of the Association of National Advertisers and the Emory Graduate School of Business.

"I'm joining a talented team of winners," said Mr. Beindorff, "and I want to accelerate their momentum."

"Visa is the premier brand in the payment systems category," said Mr. Pascarella, "and we are pleased to have its marketing future in (Mr. Beindorff's) hands."

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