Another executive is leaving Starbucks as the company changes its structure

John Culver, a 20-year veteran of the coffee giant, is leaving after the company opted to eliminate its chief operating officer function.
Starbucks COO leaves
Starbucks COO John Culver will leave the company at the end of the year. / Photos courtesy of Starbucks.

John Culver, a longtime Starbucks executive and currently the coffee giant’s chief operating officer, is leaving the company later this year as it eliminates his position and shifts responsibilities to the CEO and new chief strategy officer.

The Seattle-based coffee giant announced the departure in a pair of letters, from Culver and from interim CEO Howard Schultz.

Culver will remain in his position through the end of the company’s fiscal year on Oct. 3 and will then serve as an executive advisor to Schultz through the end of the calendar year.

The company is reorganizing the leadership team, with day-to-day business operations, including customer and store functions, reporting to the CEO. Those executives with strategy-related functions will report to Frank Britt, named earlier this year as Starbucks chief strategy and transformation officer.

“Our reinvention requires us to rethink our leadership structure to create every opportunity for our new CEO and, most importantly, to accelerate the delivery of modernized and elevated experiences for our green apron partners and our customers,” Schultz said in his letter.

The move is the latest in a series of executive changes at Starbucks, despite generally strong sales performance, as the company faces an unprecedented unionization effort at stores across the country.

Starbucks in March replaced former CEO Kevin Johnson with Schultz on an interim basis. The company plans to name his permanent successor this fall, and that person will work alongside Schultz before taking over the job permanently in January.

In the process, Schultz has been driving a plan to overhaul much of how the company operates, arguing that the company needs to make changes because it is struggling to keep pace with consumer demand for increasingly complex beverages.

John Culver StarbucksThe company plans to announce more details on its revitalization plan in September, and the new CEO is expected to be on board with that plan.

In the meantime, however, Starbucks has been making changes to its executive team. Britt was hired in April to serve as chief strategy officer. And in June, Rossann Williams, head of Starbucks North America, left the company after opting not to take another position with the chain.

Culver started with Starbucks in 2002 as a VP of foodservice and held numerous positions in the years since then. He had been president of the company’s international markets before he was named group president of North America and chief operating officer, following the departure of former COO Roz Brewer.

Culver in his letter called the decision the right one. “Given the moment we find ourselves in with our reinvention underway, this is the right decision as we chart the course and future path for Starbucks,” he said.

Schultz called Culver a “true servant leader.” “John has long been a champion of our partners and in building our next generation of great talent here at Starbucks,” Schultz said.

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