Starbucks Corp. CEO Kevin Johnson told employees in a letter Tuesday that “nothing changes” for the company with former CEO Howard Schultz’ public consideration of a presidential bid.
In an interview Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Schultz speculated about running as an “independent centrist” candidate in 2020. But his announcement drew concerns, especially on social media, about the impact of a third-party candidate on the race and the Twitter hashtag #BoycottStarbucks was trending.
In a Tuesday opinion column in USA Today, Schultz reiterated his presidential campaign musings, clarifying that, “I will not seek the presidency unless I believe it is possible to win.”
Johnson, in his letter to employees and partners at the Seattle-based coffee giant, embraced the legacy of the brand’s former CEO – who stepped down as executive chairman in June 2018 – and distanced Starbucks from Schultz’s political aspirations:
“Whatever he decides, it is my personal belief that Howard will continue to make a positive impact on the lives he touches, and I wish him well,” Johnson said in the letter. “Many of us will inevitably be asked if the company supports a possible presidential candidacy of Howard and what changes for Starbucks. As a company, we don’t get involved in national political campaigns. And nothing changes for Starbucks.”
The impact on Starbucks stock price was light, with shares trading at midday Tuesday at about $66.91, essentially flat from Monday’s close of $66.90 a share. The stock closed Friday, before the announcement, at $67.09 a share.
Starbucks as a company has historically embraced progressive positions on potentially divisive political issues, including rights and employment opportunities for refugees, immigrants, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or Dreamers) and formerly incarcerated individuals.
Johnson’s letter reiterated Starbucks’ mission and values and recent company initiatives in “pursuit of doing good,” including goals to hire opportunity youth (unemployed people between the age of 14 and 24 who are not in school), opening stores in economically underserved communities, supporting deferred action for Dreamers, hiring refugees and supporting “ban the box” hiring practices that help formerly incarcerated individuals find employment.
Some of the above politically tinged policies were enacted under Schultz’s reign, including the 2015 “Race Together” campaign, which was aimed at engaging baristas and customers in conversations about racial issues and inequality. That campaign ended after a week.
At the end of the first quarter on Dec. 30, Starbucks had 29,865 locations worldwide.
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