Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to step aside
Howard Schultz, the charismatic head of Starbucks, will step aside as CEO next year, turning a major page in the history of a company he built into an iconic global brand. Having led the company’s rise from a sleepy Seattle chain into the world’s biggest coffee business, Schultz will stay on as executive chairman and chairman of the board, the coffee giant said Thursday in a surprise announcement that sent the share price down after hours.
The change will take effect April 3. Schultz will hand the reins to president and chief operating officer Kevin Johnson, a close friend who was tapped as number two at the company in 2015 and has been a Starbucks board member since 2009.
The move comes as the firm faces an increasingly crowded market for higher-quality retail coffee shops and seeks to bolster foot traffic. Schultz will devote his time to developing highend superpremium coffee shops around the world known as Starbucks Reserve Roasteries, the company said in a statement. It plans to open 20 to 30 outlets in the coming years. “I will be here full-time,” Schultz told a conference call with analysts. “I am not leaving the company, I am here day to day.”
Schultz, who joined Starbucks in 1982 as a sales manager, is considered the driving force behind the worldwide success of the coffee chain begun in 1971. He briefly left in 1986 following a dispute with the then-owners to set up his own company, Il Giornale, before buying out their shares in 1987 with support from local small investors.
Starbucks now operates more than 25,000 stores in more than 75 countries, with a turnover of around $20 billion in fiscal year 2015. Schultz, 63, told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that the company’s new initiative would help maintain in-person sales as consumers increasingly move to online shopping rather than visiting malls, where many Starbucks outlets are located. “I don’t have any time horizon that would limit my engagement in the company,” he said. “This gives me the entrepreneurial freedom to do what I think I do best.” — AFP
SEATTLE: In this Wednesday, March 23, 2016, file photo, Kevin Johnson, president and chief operating officer of Starbucks Corp, holds up one of the coffee company’s prepaid Visa debit cards, at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Seattle. — AP