Starbucks names Mellody Hobson as board chair

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Starbucks names Mellody Hobson as board chair

By Marianne Wilson - 12/09/2020
Mellody Hobson
Mellody Hobson

Starbucks Corp. tapped finance exec Mellody Hobson as the company’s next non-executive chair, making her the only Black woman to chair a Fortune 500 company.

The news comes amid mounting criticism of corporations for a lack of diversity on their corporate boards. Only 15 companies have a female chair among S&P 500 companies where the director is not also the company CEO, according to Bloomberg and none of the women are Black.  

In October, Starbucks unveiled plans to increase diversity within its ranks and also said it was tying the inclusivity and diversity of its teams to executive compensation. 

Hobson, whose appointment is effective in March, first joined the Starbucks board as an independent director in 2005 and was appointed as the board’s independent vice chair in 2018. She will succeed Myron (Mike) E. Ullman, III, who joined the board in 2003 and has served as its chair since 2018. He will retire in March at the chain’s annual shareholders meeting. 

Hobson is the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, a global value-based asset management firm. Additionally, she serves as board chairman of the company’s publicly traded mutual funds. Prior to being named co-CEO, Hobson spent nearly two decades as the firm’s president. She is also a member of the board of JPMorgan Chase, the nation's largest bank.

“Mellody has been a trusted advisor to me and the company for more than 20 years,” stated Howard Schultz, Starbucks former CEO and chairman emeritus. “She is a fearless leader defined by her grace and wisdom. She has long embraced the purpose of Starbucks and, along with the leadership team, will continue to reimagine Starbucks future through the foundation of its past.”

Hobson, a past director of Estée Lauder Companies, served as board chairman of DreamWorks Animation until the company’s sale. She serves as chairman of After School Matters, a Chicago non-profit that provides area teens with high-quality after-school and summer programs.  

In 2015, Time Magazine named Hobson one of the “100 Most Influential People” in the world.

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