Howard Schultz, who had been overseeing the growth of Starbucks into a worldwide coffee behemoth, will resign from his post of executive chairman late this month amid persistent speculation that he is considering running for president in 2020.
Starbucks said that Mike Ullman, former chairman and chief executive of J.C. Penney Co., will become chairman and that Mellody Hobson, president of the Chicago management firm Ariel Investments LLC, will become vice chairwoman.
The company said in a statement that Schult had stepped away from his post of chief executive last year, will assume the title of chairman emeritus on June 26.
Schultz had joined Starbucks as head of operations and marketing in 1982 when it was a single coffee shop in Seattle. He became the chief executive in 1987 and oversaw the company’s growth from 11 stores to more than 28,000 in 77 countries by early 2018.
Starbucks lauded Schultz for having “reimagined the Italian coffeehouse tradition in America and redefined the role and responsibility of a publicly-held company,” saying he had demonstrated that “a business can simultaneously deliver best-in-class financial performance and share success with its people and the communities it serves.”
The company has won many awards for its social initiatives, which include its having become one of the first U.S. companies to offer comprehensive health benefits to both part-time as well as full-time employees — including coverage for domestic partners — and having started stock ownership and free college tuition programs for its workers.
The company forfeited the day’s revenue last week by shutting all of its 8,000 U.S. stores to train the workers in ‘racial-bias education’ train after the arrests of two black men in a Philadelphia store in April.
At the same time, Starbucks has been widely criticized for business practices that skeptics said to drive out the small local coffee shops and for allegedly having failed to pay its full share of taxes allegedly in Great Britain.
On Monday, in a memo to employees, Schultz said
Qthat “no person or company is ever perfect,” but he wrote that he was proud that the company had balanced “profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigor, and love and responsibility.”
“Amid the chaos, try to listen with empathy, respond with kindness, and do your best to perform through the lens of humanity,” he wrote. “Do not be a bystander.”
For more than a year, speculation has swirled that Schultz, a fierce critic of President Donald Trump, is gearing up to run for president in 2020.
In the month of February, when he told sources that he wouldn’t be a candidate, but when asked about the prospect again in an interview on Monday with the New York Times, he replied: “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.”
Schultz said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in October 2014 that many of America’s problems stemmedr from years of institutional failures in Washington.
He also said, “As business people and business leaders, we need to take the lead and do what we can to move the country forward. There has to be a balance between profitability and doing everything we can to get the country moving again. And that goes back to Washington.