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Starbucks names former PepsiCo exec Laxman Narasimhan as next CEO

Narasimhan will officially join the company in October and take the reins from interim CEO Howard Schultz on April 1, 2023

Starbucks announced that former PepsiCo executive Laxman Narasimhan will become the company’s next CEO, replacing interim CEO Howard Schultz, who came on in April 2022 after Kevin Johnson left the company. Narasimhan will join Starbucks as incoming CEO on Oct. 1 during a transitionary period, before assuming the role of CEO and joining the executive board on April 1, 2023.

This highly anticipated announcement comes less than two weeks from Starbucks’ annual investor meeting, where more details on the transition of power are likely to be announced.

“Laxman is an inspiring leader,” Mellody Hobson, independent Starbucks Board of Directors chair said in a statement. “His deep, hands-on experience driving strategic transformations at global consumer-facing businesses makes him the ideal choice to accelerate Starbucks growth and capture the opportunities ahead of us. His understanding of our culture and values, coupled with his expertise as a brand builder, innovation champion, and operational leader will be true differentiators as we position Starbucks for the next 50 years, generating value for all our stakeholders.”

Narasimhan has 30 years of business experience and was most recently CEO of Reckitt, a FTSE-12 listed multinational consumer health, hygiene and nutrition company. He also held various leadership roles at PepsiCo, including as global chief commercial officer, CEO of PepsiCo Latin America, and CFO of PepsiCo Americas Foods. Prior to PepsiCo, he was a senior partner at McKinsey & Company.
“When I learned about Laxman’s desire to relocate, it became apparent that he is the right leader to take Starbucks into its next chapter,” interim CEO Howard Schultz said in a statement. “He is uniquely positioned to shape this work and lead the company forward with his partner-centered approach and demonstrated track record of building capabilities and driving growth in both mature and emerging markets. As I have had the opportunity to get to know him, it has become clear that he shares our passion of investing in humanity and in our commitment to our partners, customers, and communities.”

Schultz returned to Starbucks as interim CEO during a time of great upheaval and change at the company and set into motion multiple changes like getting rid of the COO position, strengthening Starbucks’ anti-union stance, and closing stores due to safety reasons. For more insight on the changes Starbucks is going through, see NRN’s analysis here.

During the transition period, Narasimhan and Schultz will work together and he will “gain in-depth exposure to the brand, company culture, and reinvention plan” before taking on the role of CEO in the spring. After the transition, Schultz will remain on the Board and act in an advisory capacity to Narasimhan.  

“I am humbled to be joining this iconic company at such a pivotal time, as the reinvention and investments in the partner and customer experiences position us to meet the changing demands we face today and set us up for an even stronger future,” Narasimhan said in a statement. “I look forward to working closely with Howard, the Board, and the entire leadership team – and to listening and learning from Starbucks partners – as we collectively build on this work to lead the company into its next chapter of growth and impact.”

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

Find her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi


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