Howard Schultz steps down at Starbucks amid rumors of a presidential run

June 6, 2018

Howard Schultz, who oversaw Starbucks’ growth into a worldwide coffee behemoth over the past 36 years—with 28,000 stores in 77 countries—will step down as executive chairman late this month amid swirling speculation that he is considering running for president in 2020, NBC News reported on June 4.

Holding back tears, Schultz talked to a mix of partners, board members, and former colleagues this week, kvelling, “We are in the business that elevates humanity. It’s about what we’ve been able to create: a unique experience around love and humanity.”

In a memo to his employees, he said, “no person or company is ever perfect,” but that he was proud that the company had balanced “profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigor, and love and responsibility.”

Schultz, 64, who stepped away from his role as chief executive last year, will assume the title of chairman emeritus on June 26, the company said in a statement.

Starbucks lauded him for having “reimagined the Italian coffeehouse tradition in America and redefined the role and responsibility of a publicly held company,” saying that he had demonstrated that “a business can simultaneously deliver best-in-class financial performance and share success with its people and the communities it serves.”

His next move is rumored to be national politics. Indeed, for more than a year, NBC News reports, there has been rampant speculation that Schultz, a fierce critic of President Donald Trump, is gearing up to run for president in 2020.

He told CNN in February that he wouldn’t be a candidate, but when asked about the prospect again in an interview on June 4 with The New York Times, he replied: “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.”

Indeed, according to a June 5 story by Business Insider, pollsters have been tracking Schultz’s potential for nearly a year. Morning Consult, a nonpartisan polling outlet, placed Schultz at 21% favorability among Democrats, based on a national sample of 895 registered members of the party in June 2017—calling him “the most popular 2020 Democratic prospect not named Joe Biden.”

What’s more, he almost made it into the race the last time. In October 2016, a month before Trump was elected, WikiLeaks posted hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign revealing that Schultz had been under consideration  o be Clinton’s running mate—a role that eventually went to Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia).

Schultz said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in October 2014 that many of America’s problems stemmed from years of institutional failures in Washington. “As business people and business leaders, we need to take the lead and do what we can to move the country forward,” he said then, adding: “There has to be a balance between profitability and doing everything we can to get the country moving again. And that goes back to Washington. “Washington has let the country down.”

Research contact: @nbcnews

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