Howard Schultz Returns to Starbucks as Kevin Johnson Retires

The Return of the King: Starbucks Edition.



On March 16, Starbucks informed investors and customers that its CEO Kevin Johnson is retiring after 13 years with the company. After five years as CEO, he will leave the company on April 4.

starbucks shares

Starbucks grew into a global coffeehouse chain under Howard Schultz.

Mr Johnson will continue to serve as a partner and special consultant until September. 

While the Board of Directors search for a replacement, Howard Schultz will return to the helm as Interim CEO. The company made the announcement just a few hours prior to its annual shareholder meeting. 

Schultz is credited with shaping the company’s culture and thus, will also help search and onboard the new CEO. 

Kevin Johnson took over from the Starbucks founder in 2017. About his retirement, Johnson revealed that he has been in talk with the Board for nearly a year. 

During his tenure, Starbucks’ shares grew by over 50% but faced a slump in sales, like most companies, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though restaurants struggled, Strabucks started recovering mid-2020, partly due to its drive-throughs. In mid-2021, the company assured investors that they had made a “full recovery”. Mellody Hobson, Independent Starbucks Board of Directors chair commended Johnson for his efforts and revealed that under him, “Starbucks scaled an industry leading digital offering spanning nearly 45 million Starbucks Rewards members in the U.S. and China.“

Howard Shultz and Star power

Howard Schiltz has previously served as the CEO of the Starbucks Corporation from 1986 to 2000, and then again from 2008 to 2017.

One of the world’s largest coffee chains, Starbucks transformed into a global coffee house under Schultz’s leadership. Under his leadership, Starbucks grew from 11 stores to over 28,000, in four decades, with a presence in over 77 countries. He took the company public in 1992 and the coffeemaker’s stocks have risen by over 21,000% since its initial offering. He also wrote two books about his vision for and journey with Starbucks.

Speaking of his reappointment, in a written statement, Shultz mentioned, “When you love something, you have a deep sense of responsibility to help when called. Although I did not plan to return to Starbucks, I know the company must transform once again to meet a new and exciting future where all of our stakeholders mutually flourish.” 

Howard Schultz assured investors that he will focus on driving innovation and grooming young leaders to take up the mantle in the future. He stated, “We must continue to earn the trust of our people and our customers every day by how we deliver the Starbucks Experience, how we treat each other and how we act as a responsible community member and corporate citizen.”

starbucks ceo

Howard Schutlz is credited with revamping the coffee chain’s architecture.

Hobson also attested to her faith in Schultz by mentioning that she is confident he will reinforce and enhance the company’s dedication to innovation and growth. In her words, the company exists “to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

 The company informed stakeholders that “Schultz is volunteering his time as interim CEO to Starbucks and will receive $1 of compensation.”

Starbucks and Unionization

Starbucks has recently been in the news for retaliating against workers looking to unionize. In February, Starbucks fired seven employees from its Memphis location and closed the store. 

Unionization efforts in Starbucks stores around the US began in 2021. The National Labor Relations Board had even issued a complaint against the coffee-house chain over accusations that it retaliated against pro-union employees.

As of early March, six company-owned stores have formed a union. Industry experts believe that Schultz’s return to Starbucks could be to smoothen out frayed worker relationships. Those who have followed Schultz’s journey closely attest to his superior business acumen and emotional intelligence in getting to the root of the problem.

Christy Gren
Christy Gren is an Industry Specialist Reporter at Industry Leaders Magazine she enjoys writing about Unicorns, Silicon Valley, Startups, Business Leaders and Innovators. Her articles provide an insight about the Power Players in the field of Technology, Auto, Manufacturing, and F&B.
  1. ST says:

    Howard Schultz,

    Glad to see him return, to Starbuck’s
    Past management seemed overtly focused on profits over people these past few years.

    Delighted and hopeful for Starucks.

    Customers and employees felt the scrutinization of an overly profitized attitude shift.
    As costs went up, customer relationships were not flourishing as they had with Mr.Schultz as CEO.

    Somehow Corporate overlooked the mainstay of every business are the “employees”.

    Advice-
    Raise wages, treat people fairly and be considerate. The people you hire determine the future of (the, your) business and are much more than a name space on a schedule.

    Lower and middle management forget the invisible divisionary line that has somehow been created between the desks at corporate and those who work front and center.

    People reach out to unions to be protected. Due to changes and hostility within an organization.

    Truth- People are now finding themselves sleeping in cars, coming to work hungry. Some of your employees have children that have no choice but to be hungry and sleep in the same style.

    Today’s wages are not providing much relief. Yet there is light for options and ideas that can provide some help through reprioritizing business thought and intention for the future.

    Starbucks Humilty-
    This one situation brings to light how important it is to have lower/middle management in place that have problem solving abilities, excercise good judgment and operate within a level of compassion to the company, it’s members and the pubic.

    Just one story-
    The Media brought to light in Seattle-
    After discovering employees fired due to consuming marked out pastries that were heading to a food bank….
    “Fired due to Hunger” There is no excuse or comeback for poor management decisions.

    Lately, Starbucks has been showing up in the news negatively.
    My trust is with Howard to turn Starbuck’s into a brighter direction.

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