Leadership

Howard Schultz is stepping down from the Starbucks board

The former CEO and chairman emeritus is no longer company director as part of a planned transition. Wei Zhang, former Alibaba senior advisor, will take on the role.
Howard Schultz
Howard Schultz is stepping down as director of the Starbucks board. | Photo courtesy of Starbucks.

Howard Schultz, who stepped down earlier this year following his third stint as Starbucks CEO, is leaving the company’s board of directors, the coffee giant said on Wednesday.

The company said the decision was effective today and that it was part of a planned transition.

Starbucks also said that Wei Zhang, a former longtime executive of the online business-to-business marketplace Alibaba, was elected to the company’s board of directors and will take that role on Oct. 1.

Schultz’s departure from the board follows an active year and a half in which the company’s former CEO stepped back into the role on an interim basis for his handpicked replacement, Kevin Johnson. Schultz proceeded to develop a revitalization plan and helped pick his permanent replacement in Laxman Narasimhan.

Schultz ceded the CEO role to Narasimhan in March of this year, ending what was his third go-round in the top job.

One of the restaurant industry’s most recognized executives, Schultz is the “modern-day founder” of Starbucks, having helped turn the company from a little-known coffee maker in Seattle into one of the world’s biggest concepts. Starbucks is the world’s third-largest chain by unit count; it has 36,000 locations in 86 markets around the world.

The company went public in 1992. Its total shareholder return, including dividends, over that period has been 41,000%, Starbucks said. “Howard’s vision, courage and deep love and responsibility for partners and this company created a blueprint for us all in how to lead through the lens of humanity,” Mellody Hobson, independent chair of Starbucks’ board of directors, said in a statement.

In the process, Schultz demonstrated that beverages can be a focal point for restaurant companies, showing a consumer willingness to visit coffee shops multiple times a day and spend several dollars at a time for drinks.

“I am enormously blessed to have experienced this journey from the ground floor at the company these many years,” Schultz said in a statement.

Zhang, meanwhile, most recently was a senior advisor to the Alibaba Group and is a former president of the Alibaba Pictures Group. She spent more than a decade building that company’s international business and media strategy, and is currently on the board of the Ralph Lauren Corp.

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