Howard Schultz is leaving Starbucks at the end of the month to explore a career in public service or philanthropy, among other options, ending a four-decade tenure that took the concept from a virtual unknown to one of the industry’s most dominant and influential powers.
The announcement, which Schultz made in a memo to employees on Monday, is likely to stoke speculation that the Starbucks chairman will run for president of the United States.
Myron Ullman, former chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney, will succeed Schultz as Starbucks chairman. Schultz will assume the honorary title of chairman emeritus on June 26.
Schultz’s departure will cap a rags-to-riches story that began in the housing projects of Brooklyn, where the young New Yorker witnessed his family’s decline into poverty because an injury ended his father’s job as a diaper-service deliveryman. As Schultz recalled in his best-selling autobiography, he vowed to build an organization that would never allow such a turn of events.
He saw his shot while selling wholesale coffee carafes. Sizable orders were coming from a coffee outlet in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Schultz decided to visit the customer, which ran a stall called Starbucks.
A year later, he became the chain’s director of operations and marketing.
Additional details on Schultz’s storied career and related coverage of his pending departure can be found on WGB’s sister brand, Restaurant Business, here.