Howard Schultz made the decision to leave Starbucks, the Seattle coffee company he grew from 11 units to 28,000 global cafes, a year ago—and planned to depart from the chain last month.
But then Starbucks found itself at the center of nationwide controversy in April when two African-American men accused of trespassing were arrested in a Philadelphia store. Schultz decided to delay the timing of his departure.
That’s just one revelation made by Schultz in a wide-ranging, half-hour interview today on CNBC, in which the departing Starbucks chairman commented on political issues from the national debt to President Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border to tax cuts, all while refusing to say whether he would ever run for public office.
“Our standing in the world today is not what it should be,” Schultz said in the broadcast, adding, “I can’t be nailed down today,” regarding a potential political run.
Schultz, one of the most successful CEOs in modern history, has had a four-decade tenure with Starbucks that began in the 1980s as the small chain’s director of operations and marketing and included stints as CEO from 1987 to 2008 and again from 2008 to 2017. In 2017, he stepped down to become executive chairman.
For the immediate future, Schultz will tie up loose ends at Starbucks—his final day is June 26—and will begin work on a book about social responsibility and the role of a public company in a changing society, he said.
Schultz was outspoken in his criticism of both the current president and the Democratic Party, noting that there’s “a big difference” between someone who runs a publicly held global enterprise versus someone who has run a private company “with very little fiduciary responsibility to shareholders.”
“It’s been a long time since anyone in government has walked in the shoes of the American people,” he said. “We should not be in the business of building walls. We should be in the business of building bridges with our neighbors. … We haven’t had servant leadership in a long time, where we are working in service of others.”
Schultz expressed confidence in the future of Starbucks after his departure, noting the strength of CEO Kevin Johnson and large-scale growth across China.
“We are a growth company that is experiencing a moment in time where U.S. comps have slowed. There will always be cyclical issues,” he said. He added that he expected “innovation and disruption” to turn around sluggish same-store sales.
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