STAR­BUCKS CHIEF COULD CHAL­LENGE TRUMP

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROBERT PHILPOT

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.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Howard Schultz is leav­ing Star­bucks this month

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