Howard Schultz

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Starbucks Chief Howard Schultz Stepping Down, Report Says He's Weighing Future In 'Public Service'

June 04, 2018 - 4:32 pm

SEATTLE (WCBS 880/CBS News) -- Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz is stepping down – likely fueling speculation that he is planning to run for president in 2020.

"I write to you today enjoying a French Press of my favorite coffee, aged Sumatra, and feeling so many emotions," Schultz wrote in a letter to Starbucks employees. "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."

Schultz told the New York Times that he privately went to the Starbucks board a year ago to outline his plan to retire.

Schultz, 64, became director of operations and marketing at Starbucks in 1982. He later bought the company in 1987 and became CEO, with Starbucks going public five years later.

Schultz relinquished his post as chief executive in 2017 to focus on innovation and social issues, with former Starbucks president and chief operating officer officer Kevin Johnson taking over the role.

Starbucks said Myron E. "Mike" Ullman will take over as chairman of the board, and Mellody Hobson will become vice chair (Disclosure: Mellody Hobson is a regular contributor to CBS News).

In a news release on Monday, the company noted that Starbucks' stock price has seen a 21,000 percent gain since its initial public offering in 1992. That means a $1,000 stake in the IPO would be worth around $21 million today.

Starbucks shares fell 1.4 percent after the close of trading, when the company announced Schultz's exit as chairman. 

Over the course of his career at Starbucks, the company grew from a handful of stores to an international behemoth with 28,000 locations around the world. Starbucks, which styled itself as a "third place" for Americans to congregate along with work and home, also because synonymous with an urban style that bred imitators and changed the food business.

The Times reported Schultz has been vocal on political issues, this year calling President Donald Trump “a president that is creating episodic chaos every day.”

Schultz, 64, acknowledged to the Times that he may consider a future in politics.

“I want to be truthful with you without creating more speculative headlines,” he was quoted by the newspaper. “For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country – the growing division at home and our standing in the world.”

He told the Times his next chapter will involve figuring out “if there is a role I can play in giving back.”

When asked directly whether he might run for president, Schultz told the 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.”

Schultz said the Starbucks board had expected to announce his departure last month, but the plan was halted after the arrests of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia.

The coffee chain's leaders apologized and met with the two men, but also reached out to activists and experts in bias training to put together a curriculum for its 175,000 workers. Last week, Starbucks closed more than 8,000 stores nationwide last week to conduct anti-bias training.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News contributed to this report.)