Howard Schultz, the visionary who built Starbucks into a global empire, is stepping down as executive chairman and member of the board of directors, the company announced Monday.
He will leave the board June 26, at which time he will be given the title of chairman emeritus.
Schultz led the Seattle-based coffee chain, which now has more than 28,000 locations around the world, for nearly four decades as CEO and executive chariman. Schultz left the role of CEO in April 2017 and was succeeded by current CEO Kevin Johnson.
“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 released Monday. “Together we’ve done that, and so much more, by balancing profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigor, and love and responsibility.”
His exit comes on the heels of national racial bias scandal that led to the company closing its company operated locations last week for employee training sessions. The incident occurred a year after Schultz is relinquished the helm of the coffeehouse chain’s global operations. Johnson has won critical praise for how he handled the aftermath of the racial profiling incident in Philadelphia.
Schultz has been outspoken on a number of national political and social issues over the years, leading many to speculate that he might consider a run for president. The departure from Starbucks sets the stage for further involvement in public service. In a farewell letter to employees, Schultz noted he had created a personal website, which talks of a "new chapter."
Asked about potential plans for a run for office, Schultz told the New York Times, “I intend to think about a range of options, and that could include public service. But I’m a long way from making any decisions about the future.”
In the letter to employees, Schultz said he was feeling a wide range of emotions while drinking his favorite French Press coffee, aged Sumatra. “Pride. Nostalgia. A heavy heart. But mostly, I sit here feeling a tremendous sense of gratitude. For years I’ve had a dream to build a different kind of company, one that has the potential to enhance lives and endure long after I was gone. Thanks to you, my dream has come true.”
His journey began in 1981 when he became fascinated with the first Starbucks in Seattle at Pike Place Market. The following year he uprooted his family and moved from New York to Seattle to assume the role of director of operations and marketing.
He eventually became the visionary who taught the mainstream coffee drinkers to pay a premium for a higher quality coffee prepared in what he called a “third place” community.
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