Coffee king: Howard Schultz, grew Starbucks from 11 cafes to a £58bn coffee empire
Howard Schultz, the man who grew Starbucks from 11 cafes to a £58billion coffee empire is leaving amid rumours of a potential run for the White House.
Schultz, 64, who is considered one of the most respected bosses on Wall Street, will step down as chairman on June 26 – 26 years to the day that he took the chain public on the New York Stock Exchange.
The married father of two has been credited with growing the Seattle coffee chain into a multinational powerhouse that raked in £4.3billion in sales last year. Shares fell 2.4 per cent following the announcement to $55.68 as analysts described the departure as ‘the loss of a powerful mind’.
Schultz claimed he had been trying to leave the business for more than a year, but his resignation had been delayed by an incident which saw Starbucks staff call police to report two black customers waiting for a friend who were subsequently arrested for trespassing.
David Palmer, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said: ‘It is reasonable for shareholders to worry about the retirement of a legendary leader from the brand, especially one who defines the culture as Howard does.’
Robert Passikoff, president of consultancy Brand Keys, added: ‘Howard was the not only the guy who started the company but he was the one who maintained brand vision. He walked away once and the company suffered immensely.’
Schultz, who is worth more than £2billion, was chief executive from 1986 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2017. Last year he was promoted to executive chairman.
He started out at Starbucks in 1981 as director of operations and marketing following a stint as a general manager for a Swedish drip coffee manufacturer.
During his time heading up the business, Schultz transformed Starbucks from a small chain of 11 outlets to a brand with more than 27,000 cafes worldwide.
It has recently stepped up its expansion into China where it is opening a cafe every 15 hours. Schultz is renowned for spouting corporate jargon but is adored by many employees who attend the company’s annual meeting every year.
In recent years, though, he has pursued philanthropic interests and been outspoken on corporate America – sparking rumours he would bid to become the Democratic presidential candidate. In an interview with CNBC, Schultz refused to talk specifically about speculation he would run for president against Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
‘There’s a lot of things I can do as a private citizen other than run for the presidency of the United States,’ he said.
‘Let’s just see what happens.’