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Leadership

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz ‘seriously considering’ presidential bid

Schultz announced he would run as a “centrist independent,” setting off widespread debate about what that might mean for the future of Starbucks and the country.
Photograph courtesy of Starbucks

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who left the coffee juggernaut in June amid rumors of a planned presidential run, announced Sunday that he’s “seriously considering” a White House campaign.

The announcement that Schultz, if he runs, would do so as a “centrist independent” touched off a wave of debate across social media and on national news programs about what this would mean for Starbucks and for the 2020 race.

Schultz, known for steering Starbucks toward support of progressive causes and a vocal critic of President Trump, said in his announcement on CBS’ “60 Minutes” that he wants to see a decrease in the national debt.

Trump, for his part, tweeted that Schultz “doesn’t have the guts to run for President.” And many on social media questioned whether the former CEO had enough experience for the country’s top office. Democrats worried his potential run as an independent would siphon votes from progressive candidates.

But others say it’s unlikely Starbucks’ image would be impacted by a Schultz run.

“I do not see any negative consequences for Starbucks as a brand, for two reasons,” said Robert Byrne, senior manager of consumer insights for Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. “Starbucks serves coffee, which is arguably a very democratized commodity. Add to that the everyday routine and habitual nature of coffee drinking, and I anticipate limited changes in Starbucks patronage.”

Plus, Byrne noted, 49% of consumers view Starbucks as a liberal brand, according to Technomic consumer data.

“There’s a strong chance moderate voters see this as a very balanced candidate,” he said, “one who has shown on paper (and via financial performance) that he can fully embrace and negotiate conservative fiscal responsibility and progressive social policy simultaneously.”

Schultz, who retired as Starbucks’ executive chairman last June, received $30.1 million in total compensation from the Seattle-based company in 2018, according to recently released data from the brand.

 

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