Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz to step down on June 26

Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz shocked many of his 350,000 associates across the world by announcing his resignation with just three weeks notice.

Political commentators have been quick to link his sudden departure to a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination for the 2020 election, rumours about which have been swirling for months.

Schultz’s last day at the small Seattle company he bought in 1987 and built into one of the world’s largest cafe chains will be on June 26 when he will be designated chairman emeritus. Myron E Ullman, formerly chairman and CEO of JCPenney, will take over as chairman with Mellody Hobson, president and director of Ariel Investments, becoming vice chairman.

In a long letter to staff and customers, Schultz said it seems like yesterday that he first walked into the Pike Place store, “stepped across the threshold, and was swept into a world of coffee and community”.

“That moment began the journey of a lifetime. Not just for me, but for so many of us. Who could have imagined how far we would travel together, from 11 stores in 1987 to more than 28,000 stores in 77 countries. But these numbers are not the true measures of our success. Starbucks changed the way millions of people drink coffee, this is true, but we also changed people’s lives in communities around the world for the better.”

Perhaps a clue to his future political intentions was an invitation in the letter to follow his website howardschultz.com which appears to be brand new. On the site he signs off from Starbucks in another letter, closing with the comment: “I still have the same curiosity that’s fuelled me all these years, and a relentless passion to enhance the lives of others. I encourage and welcome your thoughts about what comes next…”

During recent years, Schultz has been more outspoken about his political views, publicly endorsing Hillary Clinton and condemning several actions of US President Donald Trump.

It’s not goodbye

In his letter to Starbucks staff and customers, Schultz said the move will be an emotional transition.

“But I’m looking forward to spending time with my family this summer. I’m also writing a book about Starbucks’ social impact work and our efforts to redefine the role and responsibility of a public company in an ever-changing society. It’s a journey that has prompted me to consider the many ways that each of us, as citizens, can give back to our communities. I’ll be thinking about a range of options for myself, from philanthropy to public service, but I’m a long way from knowing what the future holds.”

He was also clear in his desire to remain part of the company he built so strong. “I’ll never say goodbye to you. Just thank you.”

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