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Trading  | June 4, 2018

Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz will leave the company at the end of the month, according to the New York Times, ending 40 years of leadership during which the Seattle coffee chain grow into a global giant with over 28,000 stores in 77 countries. He will be replaced as chairman with Myron “Mike” Ullman, former chairman of JCPenny, while Schultz will be given the honorary title of “chairman emeritus.”

Schultz’s departure was outlined to the board a year ago, says the Times, and is likely to stoke speculation over a run for the White House in 2020. 

Mr. Schultz’s decision to retire, a plan he said he privately outlined to the board a year ago, will most likely stoke speculation that he is considering a run for president in 2020. He is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for the Democratic Party and has become increasingly vocal on political issues, including criticizing President Trump earlier this year as “a president that is creating episodic chaos every day.”

While Mr. Schultz, 64, typically bats away speculation about his political ambitions with an eye roll or a pithy answer, on Monday he acknowledged for the first time that it is something he may consider. -NYT

“I want to be truthful with you without creating more speculative headlines,” he told The New York Times. “For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country — the growing division at home and our standing in the world.”

“One of the things I want to do in my next chapter is to figure out if there is a role I can play in giving back,” he continued. “I’m not exactly sure what that means yet.”

When asked about a run for the White House, Schultz cryptically responded “I intend to think about a range of options, and that could include public service. But I’m a long way from making any decisions about the future.”

“Intend to think”?

We intend to wait with baited breath – though Schultz also said “I want to be of service to our country, but that doesn’t mean I need to run for public office to accomplish that.”

The possibility that Mr. Schultz, who has spent three decades leading Starbucks, could run for president has become far more realistic with the election of President Trump, a real estate developer and reality-television star before his political career. -NYT

Translation: he is running.

* * *

Schultz says that his departure was supposed to be announced last month but was delayed following an embarrassing episode at a Philadelphia store in mid-April in which two black men who hadn’t bought anything were arrested while waiting inside a Starbucks for a friend. In response, the coffee chain closed its doors last week for four hours for a “racial bias training” session which made employees very uncomfortable.

Starbucks has always been somewhat of an activist organization, wading into debates over issues such as gay rights, race relations, the 2nd amendment, veterans’ rights and student debt. 

Mr. Schultz was an early champion of the idea of a corporate executive as a moral leader as he sought to achieve what he described as “the fragile balance between profit and conscience.”

Schultz left his role as CEO last April, handing the company over to Kevin Johnson, saying he planned to work on his family foundation and write a book about “social impact work and the efforts to redefine the role and responsibility of a public company.” 

On Monday, just hours before Mr. Schultz planned to send a letter to the company’s 350,000 employees around the world announcing his decision, he visited Starbucks’ first store at Pike Place Market for the last time as its leader.

“I’ve been doing this for almost forty years,” he said. “Taking my green apron off is hard. It is emotional. More emotional than I thought it would be. “I told myself a long time ago that if I was ever going to explore a second act, I couldn’t do it while still at the company,” he added.

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