Starbucks’ Howard Schultz says he will never return as company CEO

Marianne Wilson
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Howard Schultz is on his third stint as CEO of Starbucks.

The third time was apparently the charm for Howard Schultz.

The longtime Starbucks leader returned to take the reins as interim CEO in April following the retirement of Kevin Johnson. He previously served as CEO of the coffee giant from 1986 to 2000 and then again from 2008 to 2017. But in an interview Wednesday, Schultz, 69, said he will never return as CEO, citing the appointment of Laxman Narasimhan, who will join the company as incoming CEO on October 1.

“I’m never coming back again, because we found the right person,” Schultz said Wednesday on CNBC’s“Squawk Box.”

But Schultz is by no means leaving the company that he grew into a retail powerhouse — at least not for the foreseeable future. Under the succession plan announced by Starbucks, Narasimhan join the company as incoming CEO on Oct. 1 will work closely with Schultz during a transition period before taking the reins himself on April 1, 2023. Schultz will remain on the company’s board of directors and will continue to advise Narasimhan.

In the interview, Schultz said that he’s gotten to know Narasimhan “very well” during the last few months. He noted that he is "here to support," Narasimhan, calling him "the best possible candidate in the world to lead Starbucks."

Schultz expressed similar sentiments in a Sept. 1 letter to Starbucks employees, describing Narasimhan as a “strategic and transformational leader with deep experience in building powerful consumer brands, driving innovations that create loyalty and convenience for consumers, and working in partnership with employees to live up to their own full potential and fulfill a purpose.”

He is the leader we were looking for to lead Starbucks at this moment and for the future,” Schultz wrote.