STARBUCKS CHIEF COULD CHALLENGE TRUMP
WHEN AMERICANS come to elect their next president in 2020, they may have had their fill of billionaire businessmen lacking in political experience.
But Howard Schultz, whose decision this week to stand down as executive chairman of Starbucks sparked speculation that he intends to run for the White House, is no Donald Trump.
Mr Schultz has frequently brushed aside suggestions that he has presidential aspirations.
But following the announcement of his retirement from Starbucks, he left the door wide open.
“I want to be truthful with you without creating more speculative headlines,” he told the New York Times. “For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country — the growing division at home and our standing in the world.”
Asked if he was considering running for president, he continued: “I intend to think about a range of options and that could include public service. But I’m a long way from making any decisions about the future.”
Mr Schultz, who transformed a small Seattle coffee chain into a worldwide empire of 28,000 stores in 77 countries, is a champion of progressive causes and backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.
At the time, he blasted her opponent’s “vitriolic display of bigotry and hate and divisiveness”.
His vocal support for gun control, gay rights and immigration would make for a titanic clash with Mr Trump, should the president seek a second term.
An address to the Atlantic Council delivered last month which assailed isolationism and nationalism sounded very much like Mr Schultz was roadtesting a 2020 message: “This is not the time to build walls. This is the time for bridges.”
He then pointedly told people not to accept “the status quo of a lack of dignity and a lack of respect”.
Last year, he attacked Mr Trump’s refusal to condemn neoNazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, suggesting: “My fear is not only that this behaviour is being given permission and license, but its conduct is being normalised to the point where people are no longer hiding their face.”
Both Mr Schultz’s background and his way of doing business would provide a sharp contrast to Mr Trump.
Unlike the president’s wealthy upbringing, Mr Schultz grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, the son of a truck driver-turned-taxi driver who struggled to make ends meet.
That experience informed the way he grew and ran his business, attempting to strike what he termed “the fragile balance between profit and conscience”.
Thus for the past 30 years Starbucks has offered healthcare coverage for all its full and part-time workers.
Like the president, Mr Schultz does not shy away from a fight. In 2013, he told a shareholder who had complained at Starbucks’ annual meeting that its support for gay marriage was harming the business that he was welcome to invest his money elsewhere.
But Mr Schultz’s lacks the president’s propensity for blame-shifting when things go wrong. When Starbucks was engulfed in a recent controversy over the wrongful arrest of two black men in one of its cafes in Philadelphia, he insisted on flying to the city to apologise to them in person. Last month, the company closed its stores across America for an afternoon to institute a programme of racial bias training.
Before possibly facing Mr Trump, the former Starbucks chief would have to convince Democrats to pick him as their candidate.
He thus also launched a thinly -veiled attack on Senator Bernie Sanders, another Jewish potential candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“How are we going to pay for these things?” he told CNBC when questioned about Mr Sanders’ political wish list. “I think we got to get away from these falsehoods and start talking about the truth and not false promises.”
Mr Trump, it seems, is not the only obstacle on Mr Schultz’s path to the White House.
Howard Schultz is leaving Starbucks this month