Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO, steps down from company's board

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is stepping down from the coffee chain’s board, the company said Wednesday.

“I look forward to supporting this next generation of leaders to steward Starbucks into the future as a customer, supporter and advocate in my role as chairman emeritus,” Schultz said in a statement.

The company said the change was part of a planned transition, but Schultz, 70, didn’t provide a reason for his exit.

Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the Annual Meeting of Shareholders in Seattle, Washington on March 22, 2017. Starbucks said on September 13, 2023 that its former chief executive Howard Schultz will step down from the coffee chain's board of directors "as part of a planned transition."
Then-Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the annual shareholders meeting in Seattle in 2017. Jason Redmond / AFP - Getty Images file

His third stint as Starbucks’ chief executive ended in March, as Laxman Narasimhan stepped into the role. Schultz spent 11 months back in the top job. During that time, he crafted a strategy to modernize the company’s cafes, improve relations with its baristas and fuel further sales growth. He also spearheaded the launch of Starbucks Oleato, a line of olive oil-infused beverages.

But some of Schultz’s actions created new enemies. He took a more aggressive approach against baristas unionizing than Kevin Johnson, who took over as CEO after Schultz’s second stint. Starbucks Workers United and allies such as Sen. Bernie Sanders made billionaire Schultz the face of Starbucks’ anti-union stance. It culminated in Schultz being grilled in front of a Senate committee over the company’s alleged union busting shortly after he stepped down as chief executive.

Prior to his departure, Schultz told CNBC that he has no intention of taking the reins as CEO again.

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Schultz previously stepped down from Starbucks’ board in June 2018 to prepare for a potential presidential run, before deciding against a bid. He had already handed off the CEO role to Johnson in 2017.

As Schultz departs the board, Wei Zhang will take his seat. Zhang served as a senior advisor to Alibaba and president of Alibaba Pictures Group.

Her experience with the Chinese e-commerce giant could aid Starbucks as it tries to help its Chinese business bounce back. China is Starbucks’ second-largest market, and some trends there, such as mobile ordering, have inspired changes to the company’s U.S. business.

Zhang also previously held roles at News Corp China, CNBC China, Bain and General Electric. She currently serves on Ralph Lauren’s board.


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