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Starbucks’ executive chairman to step down

It’s the end of an era at Starbucks.

The company’s executive chairman and architect of its spectacular growth, Howard Schultz, is stepping down after 40 years with the company. He will be honored with the title of chairman emeritus, effective June 26. The news of his retirement sparked reports that Schultz is considering a run for political office.

The company has appointed Myron E. “Mike” Ullman, former chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney, as its new chair of the board. Mellody Hobson, president and director of Chicago-based investment management firm Ariel Investments, will be named vice chair of the board. Both appointments will be effective upon Schultz’s retirement, according to the company.

Schultz joined Starbucks in 1982 as director of operations and marketing. In 1987, Schultz acquired the Starbucks' brand, and its 17 locations from the company founders. During the next four decades, Schultz became CEO and chairman, and expanded Starbucks from 11 stores into an iconic brand with more than 28,000 stores in 77 countries.

In 2017, Schultz stepped down as CEO, handing over the reins to current CEO Kevin Johnson. Taking on the title of executive chairman, he began focusing on the global development of the company’s premium Reserve brand, including Starbucks Reserve Roasteries, Reserve stores and the Company’s partnership with renowned artisanal Italian bakery, Princi.

“There are no words to fully express our gratitude to Howard for the extraordinary company he has built,” said CEO and member of the Board of Directors Kevin Johnson. “He’s helped Starbucks earn the respect of millions around the world by always being true to a higher calling, and always being bold in creating a better future. He’s taught all of us that it’s possible to be a very different kind of public company. That must, and will, continue on my watch.”

“I set out to build a company that my father, a blue-collar worker and World War II veteran, never had a chance to work for,” Schultz wrote in a letter addressed to past and present Starbucks partners. “Together we’ve done that, and so much more, by balancing profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigor, and love and responsibility.”

While expanding the chain, Schultz also remained committed to social issues. Most recently, he spearheaded a company-wide training program designed to address racial bias. More than 8,000 stores closed for the program on the afternoon of May 29.

Schultz is also widely regarded as one of the nation’s most politically outspoken and high-profile executives. In recent years, he has taken very public and progressive stands on issues such as gun control, gay rights and student debt.

As he steps down, the move is likely to renew speculation that he may enter the political forum — something he has denied in the past. He has a close relationship with President Barack Obama, and supported Hillary Clinton in the most recent election.
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