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Starbucks COO taking extended unpaid leave

Less than a year into the role, the Starbucks exec tapped as Chief Executive Howard Schultz’s replacement to handle day-to-day operations has decided he can’t keep the job right now. Chief operating officer Troy Alstead is taking an “extended unpaid leave” as of March 1, the coffee giant said Thursday, though Starbucks did not give a reason for the departure.

Last January, Schultz promoted Alstead from CFO to the newly created COO position, saying he wanted to step back and focus on digital and e-commerce. While Alstead wasn’t new to the brand (he’s been with Starbucks since 1992), the position rejiggered the org chart, leaving Starbucks’ brands, domestic and abroad, in his hands.

A little more than a month ago, Starbucks detailed a five-year plan that centered on strategic growth, presumably much of which would’ve fallen on Alstead’s plate. The chain is aiming to double sales of its food business, expand its Starbucks Evenings wine model to up nighttime business and continue with new format stores such as its micro and express locations.

Starbucks has not yet indicated who will now lead the charge. Schultz has stepped back into day-to-day operations in the past, but there have been no indications that he’ll repeat the pattern. 

The company said Schultz and Alstead will discuss transition plans in more detail during a call with financial analysts on January 22.

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