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Starbucks leader Howard Schultz to step down after 40 years

Starbucks announced on 4 June that Howard Schultz is stepping down as Executive Chairman and Member of the Board of Directors and will be honoured with the title of Chairman Emeritus, effective 26 June, 2018.

During his four decades as CEO and Chairman, Schultz grew Starbucks from 11 stores to more than 28,000 stores in 77 countries, while demonstrating that a business can simultaneously deliver best-in-class financial performance and share success with its people and the communities it serves.

Under Schultz’s leadership, Starbucks delivered a 21,000 per cent gain in the value of its stock price since its initial public offering in 1992. The company’s growth was fueled by his decisions to provide uncommon benefits for those who work for Starbucks, including comprehensive healthcare, stock ownership and free college tuition, even for those working part-time.

“I set out to build a company that my father, a blue-collar worker and World War II veteran, never had a chance to work for,” Schultz wrote in a letter addressed to past and present Starbucks employees, whom the company calls partners. “Together we’ve done that, and so much more, by balancing profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigor, and love and responsibility.”

Schultz’s journey began in 1981, when he walked into the first Starbucks store, located in Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market. The following year, he moved with his wife, Sheri, from New York to assume the role of Director of Operations and Marketing.

Schultz’s passion for high-quality coffee heightened on a business trip to Italy, where he was captivated by the sense of community, romance and theatre found in Italian coffee bars. In the years following his return to Seattle, Schultz purchased Starbucks with the support of local investors and dedicated his career to bringing his vision of a modern coffee house to life in America and around the world. 

Schultz elevated the concept of Starbucks as the third place between home and work: a comfortable, welcoming environment that provides uplifting experiences, community and human connection.

Among his many accolades, Schultz has been named one of The World's Most Influential People by Time magazine as well as Business Person of the Year by Fortune.  Most recently, Schultz has received the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award and has been presented with the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Business Leadership award and the NAACP LDF (Legal Defense and Education Fund) National Equal Justice award.

This year, Starbucks was named the fifth most admired company in the world by Fortune, marking the 16th year in a row that the company has appeared on the global list. Starbucks was also named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute for the 12th consecutive year and was ranked as one of 2018’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company, most notably for its social-impact work.

On 3 April, 2017, Schultz transitioned from CEO to Executive Chairman, shifting his full-time focus to the company’s social impact initiatives as well as innovation and global development of the company’s premium Reserve brand, including Starbucks Reserve Roasteries, Reserve stores and the Company’s partnership with renowned artisanal Italian bakery, Princi.

Following his transition off the Starbucks board at the end of June, Schultz will oversee the opening of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan on 6 September – marking the company’s long-awaited entry into Italy – and the New York Roastery in late October.

Starbucks also announced today that its Board of Directors has appointed Myron E. “Mike” Ullman as its new Chair of the Board and Mellody Hobson as Vice Chair of the Board effective upon Schultz’s retirement.

“There are no words to fully express our gratitude to Howard for the extraordinary company he has built,” said CEO and Member of the Board of Directors Kevin Johnson. “He’s helped Starbucks earn the respect of millions around the world by always being true to a higher calling, and always being bold in creating a better future. He’s taught all of us that it’s possible to be a very different kind of public company. That must, and will, continue on my watch.”

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