Starbucks Co. executive chairman Howard Schultz, who as CEO shepherded the Seattle-based coffee chain into a global heavyweight, is stepping down later this month after 40 years with the company.
Zlati Meyer of USA Today had the news:
Schultz made social conscience a key tenet of the company For example, Starbucks has comprehensive health care, stock ownership and free college tuition, even for part-time staffers. In March, the chain offered up a $10 million challenge to design a compostable coffee cup.“For years, I’ve had a dream to build a different kind of company, one that has the potential to enhance lives and endure long after I was gone. Thanks to you, my dream has come true,” Schultz wrote in the letter addressed to “Starbucks partners — past and present,” crafted as he sipped a French press of his favorite coffee, aged Sumatra.”
The announcement comes less than two months after Starbucks suffered a major PR nightmare stemming from the arrest of two African-American men at one of the chain’s downtown Philadelphia locations. The company apologized repeatedly and reached a financial settlement with them. Both Schultz and Johnson met with the men, and the reputation-tarnishing event spurred the company to close its 8,000-plus company-owned stores in the U.S. and its corporate headquarters on May 29, so as many as 180,000 employees could undergo racial-bias training.
But Schultz’s ideology has dipped into the political sphere, too, His outspokenness on issues, such as gay rights and refugees, has fueled speculation that he’s looking to run for office, perhaps president.
Sarah Whitten of CNBC.com reported that a former J.C. Penney CEO will become chairman:
Myron E. Ullman, former chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney, was named chair, while Mellody Hobson, president and director of Chicago-based investment management firm Ariel Investments, will be named vice chair.
Schultz, who now will become its chairman emeritus, served as the company’s chief executive from 1987 to 2000, stepping down to focus on the company’s global strategy. He remained on as chairman of the board. At that time, there were only 350 cafes located outside of the U.S.
From 2000 to 2008, Starbucks rapidly expanded from 3,500 to about 16,000 locations, but for Schultz, the quality of the brand and its coffee had deteriorated. He returned to the head position in 2008 to revitalize it.
Again in 2017, Schultz stepped down, handing the keys over to current CEO Kevin Johnson. Once more, he picked up the mantle of executive chairman of the brand, this time focusing on Starbucks’ Roastery and Reserve Bar expansion.
Jena McGregor, Michael Scherer and Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post wrote that Schultz is considering politics:
Schultz, 64, has for years expressed an interest in becoming more involved in public life, even as he has equivocated on questions about whether he will mount a campaign for president. His friend David Geffen, the Hollywood mogul and a major Democratic donor, has said he encouraged Schultz to run as far back as the 2008 campaign cycle.
In 2015, Schultz addressed speculation directly in a New York Times op-ed, in which he wrote that “despite the encouragement of others, I have no intention of entering the presidential fray. I’m not done serving at Starbucks.”
Instead, Schultz has used the intervening years to expand his philanthropic efforts, both through Starbucks and his family foundation, which focuses on helping veterans, employing young people and helping the homeless in Washington state. He has also co-produced a documentary series at Starbucks about inspiring Americans who engage in acts of citizenship and civility, and he opened a separate, personal office to handle his own affairs.