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Starbucks names a techie as its new president/COO

In a telling sign of technology’s growing importance to the restaurant business, Starbucks has hired a former high-level executive of Microsoft and IBM to serve as the coffee chain’s president and chief operating officer.

Kevin Johnson, who most recently served as CEO of the tech firm Juniper Networks, will assume the responsibilities of Starbucks’ second-in-command on March 1. His appointment came less than two weeks after the company announced that the prior COO, 23-year Starbucks veteran Troy Alstead, was taking an indefinite unpaid leave of absence to deal with unspecified family matters.

Johnson has been a director of Starbucks since 2009, but suspended all of his board-committee duties when he came under consideration for his new role, Starbucks said.

“As a member of our board of directors, Kevin has worked closely with me for the past six years as a sounding board and collaborator on many of the strategies we are now pursuing,” Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz said in announcing the appointment after the markets closed Thursday. “Kevin’s deep management experience and technology background will help further propel Starbucks efforts in partner and customer-facing innovations as we accelerate our global growth agenda.”

Schultz cited information technology and the development of mobile- and digital-commerce platforms as areas of focus for Johnson.

Johnson’s career experience includes serving as president of a Microsoft division during his 16 years with the tech giant. Earlier, he worked for IBM. He, at the request of President George W. Bush, was a member of the National Security Technology Advisory Committee for five years.

In announcing Johnson’s appointment, Starbucks did not provide any updates on Alstead’s situation.

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