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Starbucks, Magic Johnson end urban coffee partnership

Chain ends 12-year deal with Urban Coffee Opportunities

Starbucks Corp. on Thursday said it has taken full ownership of Urban Coffee Opportunities, or UCO, a company operating more than 100 coffeehouse locations that was a partnership with Magic Johnson Enterprises.

Launched in 1998, UCO was a rare 50/50 partnership between Starbucks and basketball great Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s Los Angeles-based Johnson Development Corp., a division of Magic Johnson Enterprises. The goal had been to develop Starbucks locations in underserved neighborhoods and create economic opportunity.

Over UCO’s 12-year tenure, the company opened more than 100 Starbucks locations in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Atlanta, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

“We are incredibly proud of the work this partnership has accomplished,” said Howard Schultz, Starbucks president, chairman and chief executive, in a statement. “Together we opened several successful locations, including our Harlem store, which led the redevelopment of that now vibrant neighborhood. The partnership helped create jobs with health benefits, build community gathering places where they’re most needed, and empower change makers to innovate and take action in their communities.”

“Thanks to this partnership,” Schultz added, “Starbucks has deepened our commitment to community development in urban areas and plans additional programs to sustain that commitment.”

Johnson did not say why his company is pulling out of the partnership, but noted that Magic Johnson Enterprises “remains committed to serving urban America and we look forward to working with Starbucks on its community development initiatives.”

On Wednesday, Magic Johnson Enterprises was selected by the Los Angeles city council among a group of retailers who will operate retail concessions in four terminals at Los Angeles International Airport.

Plans include newsstands and bookstores, as well as clothing and accessory stores such as Kitson, Hollywood Style, Hugo Boss and Sunglass Hut, and a sports concept called Magic Johnson Sports.

Johnson also this week reportedly sold his minority stake in the Lakers basketball team and has expressed interest in becoming the majority owner of another sports team.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

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