Starbucks’ Departing Chairman Howard Schultz Hints Political Career May Be Brewing in His Future

Starbucks Corp. Chairman Howard Schultz will leave the coffee chain later this month, fueling speculation that the billionaire may be mulling a presidential run in the age of celebrity leaders.

In the memo Monday announcing his exit, Schultz said that he is “thinking about a range of options for myself, from philanthropy to public service, but I’m a long way from knowing what the future holds.”

Schultz, 64, aimed for a big splash with his departure announcement. He gave an extended interview to the New York Times in advance and has another with CNBC scheduled for Tuesday morning.

He told the Times he has become “deeply concerned about our country — the growing division at home and our standing in the world.” He didn’t commit one way or the other to a U.S. presidential run, though he could lean on the experience of longtime board member Bill Bradley, the ex-senator and former presidential candidate.

Political Leanings

The Times reported in March 2017 that Schultz “came close” to getting into the 2016 presidential race but backed off after concluding that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination — and likely the White House. He eventually made a high-profile endorsement of Clinton in New York in the lead-up to the 2016 election, taking thinly veiled jabs at Donald Trump while not mentioning him by name.

“I hope after the election — and hopefully Hillary Clinton will be elected president — we’ll begin to see a level of community and people coming together,” Schultz said in 2016.

Schultz, who helped Starbucks grow from 11 stores to more than 28,000 in 77 countries, will become chairman emeritus on June 26. His exit brings to a close a nearly four-decade run at the company that ushered coffeehouse culture into mainstream American life and carved out a global restaurant empire to rival McDonald’s. Veteran retailing executive Myron Ullman will take over as the new head of the board, the company said in a statement.

Starbucks is still growing in the U.S. — but not at the spectacular rates of the past. The company is betting big on China, where it plans to more than triple revenue in the next five years. But investors have been underwhelmed by the company’s outlook, with the shares falling about 11 percent in the past year. They lost as much as 2.8 percent in late trading after Monday’s announcement.

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SOURCE: Bloomberg – Leslie Patton and Craig Giammona with assistance from Lindsey Rupp and Matthew Townsend