Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz, credited with taking the company from small beginnings to an international behemoth, is stepping down as CEO to focus on new high-end coffee shops, handing the reins to Chief Operating Officer Kevin Johnson. Schultz, 63, will continue to serve as chairman of the Board and will be appointed executive chairman effective April next year.
He handpicked 56-year-old Johnson, the company’s president, chief operating officer and a 7-year member of the Starbucks Board of Directors, to serve as the new CEO.
The Seattle-based company said in his new role, Schultz will focus on the “next wave of retail innovation”, design and development of Starbucks Reserve Roasteries around the world, expansion of the Starbucks Reserve retail store format and the company’s social impact initiatives.
“I will remain Starbucks executive chairman, focusing full-time on the incredible growth opportunities we have in expanding Roasteries and building out our portfolio of Reserve stores and on Starbucks social impact agenda which will be a significant part of the focus going forward,” Schultz said in an investor and media conference call yesterday.
Schultz, who was named by Fortune magazine this month in its list of Businessperson of the Year, is credited with doubling the company’s revenues since he returned for his second stint in 2008, surpassing USD 20 billion for the first time over the past 12 months.
Starbucks now has 25,000 stores in 75 countries, including India.
Schultz’s career spans 33 years in the technology industry which included a 16-year career at Microsoft and in 2008, he was appointed to the National Security Telecommunication Advisory Committee where he served Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama.
Schultz’s focus will be developing and expanding the company’s Roasteries, high-end retail concepts featuring coffee beans and drinks like “cold brew” coffee.
Describing the Roastery as the world’s “most immersive, coffee-forward retail experience,” Schultz said the Roastery has “become a learning laboratory for breakthrough innovation and experiential design and a beacon for the next wave of Starbucks global growth and evolution.”
Starbucks Reserve is a new, premium retail coffee format that will showcase the newest coffee-brewing methods and offer customers hi-end assortment of exclusive, micro-lot coffees sourced from around the world.
“I am personally as passionate about developing the Reserve brand, and opening more Roasteries, as I was about opening our first espresso bar more than 30 years ago in Seattle,” he said.
“We share a passion for customer-focused innovation and a commitment to preserving Starbucks heritage. Our complementary backgrounds – my entrepreneurial journey building Starbucks and Kevin’s decades spent scaling global businesses – will continue to help Starbucks navigate this new period of worldwide growth and innovation,” he said about his successor Johnson.