Starbucks CEO Johnson retires; Schultz returns

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is retiring after five years at the helm, handing over leadership to longtime CEO Howard Schultz, who is returning to the helm of the coffee chain for the third time.

Schultz will take over as interim CEO when Johnson steps down on April 4 and will remain until a permanent replacement is hired. Johnson, who is also giving up his seat on the board, will remain in an advisory role through September, according to a press release Wednesday (March 16).

Johnson was recruited by Schultz in 2015 to serve as Starbucks’ chief operating officer. When Schultz resigned two years later, Johnson was named CEO. Before joining Starbucks, Johnson spent 16 years at Microsoft in various leadership positions.

“A year ago, I signaled to the board that I would consider retiring from Starbucks towards the end of the global pandemic. I think this is a natural bookend for my 13 years with the company,” Johnson said.

“As I make this transition, we are extremely fortunate to have a founder who can step in on an interim basis, giving the board time to further review potential candidates and make the right long-term succession decision for the company,” Johnson said.

Schultz spent a total of 35 years at Starbucks. He was Chairman and CEO from 1987 to 2000 and Chairman from 2000 to 2008. He returned as CEO in 2008 as the company looked to improve performance. He stayed until 2017 before handing over the regency to Johnson.

“When you love something, you have a deep sense of responsibility to help when called. While I had no plans to return to Starbucks, I know the company must transform again to face a new and exciting future in which all of our stakeholders thrive together,” said Schultz.

Schultz is volunteering his time as interim CEO and will receive $1 in compensation, according to the press release.

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