- In a letter to employees and a company blog post entitled “Onward with love," longtime Starbucks chairman and former CEO Howard Schultz said Monday he is leaving the company June 26. He served as CEO from 1987-2000 and again from 2008-2017.
- After Schultz leaves his board post later this month, he will oversee the opening of the Starbucks Reserve Roasteries in Milan and New York City, the company said in a press release — a departure from his previous duties.
- Former J.C. Penney CEO Myron E. Ullman will become the new chair of the board and Mellody Hobson will be vice chair upon Schultz’s retirement, the company said.
Schultz left the CEO role about a year ago, having returned to that post for a second stint leading the company in 2008 during a time when Starbucks was in the doldrums. He was succeeded last year by Kevin Johnson. Schultz is also writing a book about the company’s social impact work, and that could set the stage for what many believe may be his next step — a run for U.S. president. Schultz has the appropriate bio for that, along with the social justice and corporate leadership credentials that could entice American voters.
Schultz arrived at Starbucks in 1982 and later bought the company as part of a group of investors, taking the CEO role when the coffeehouse giant had just 11 stores in Seattle and shepherded it to an international juggernaut, now with more than 28,000 stores in 77 countries. Its stock price has rocketed 19,000% since its initial 1992 public offering, the company said on Monday in another post.
As CEO, he was unafraid to take a stand, even against his own investors, in order to preserve what he saw as the company's values. During a 2013 investors meeting, for example, after a shareholder complained about the backlash the coffeehouse chain experienced over its support of gay marriage, Schultz famously defended Starbucks' position and invited the investor to sell his shares if he wasn't comfortable with it.
The idea of a run intrigues many, including retail prophet Doug Stephens, author of "Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World." Schultz's track record, capabilities and values translate well to leading a country with a broad range of political views like the U.S., he told Retail Dive in an email.
"In Howard Schultz you have a person who’s clearly demonstrated remarkable vision, commitment and business savvy. At the same time he is someone who has, on many occasions, shown the courage to stand up for what is morally and ethically right, even when it would have been far easier and cheaper not to," Stephens said. "Starbucks has always hung its hat on the notions of diversity, community and inclusivity and stood out in the retail industry with respect to its care and concern for the treatment of its employees."
In his post on Monday, Schultz also talked about the racially charged incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks last month, which days later led the company to shut down for a day of reckoning. He implored employees "not to be a bystander" and to learn from their mistakes, in what he called a fragile and chaotic world.
"Please remember, Starbucks is at its best when our stores and offices are welcoming places for everyone," he wrote. "So stay true to our reason for being: inspiring and nurturing the human spirit through a sense of community and human connection. ... These values are as important as our coffee."