Howard Schultz steps down as Starbucks chairman

Starbucks announced that Howard Schultz is stepping down as executive chairman and member of the board of directors, but will be awarded the title of chairman emeritus effective June 26.

His departure was announced alongside the message to  all employees that “we did it together, by balancing profitability and social conscience.” The letter Schultz wrote to all of the chain's past and present employees continued, “I set out to build a company that my father, a blue-collar worker and World War II veteran, never had a chance to work for.

Together we’ve done that, and so much more, by balancing profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigor, and love and responsibility.”

Last year, Schultz transitioned from CEO to executive chairman, to focus on the company’s social impact initiatives as well as innovation and global development of the company’s premium Reserve brand, including Starbucks Reserve Roasteries, the largest of which was opened in Shanghai.

The news comes on the back of a big announcement to put Starbucks' China plans into overdrive, with 2,700 more shops planned and triple the revenue generated in China in the next few years.

During his 40-year tenure as CEO and chairman, Schultz was responsible for taking the small coffee chain of 11 stores to the behemoth it is today, with businesses in some 77 countries, and has grown the value of the company by some 21,000%, driven in part by extensive employee benefits such as healthcare, stock ownership and free tuition

Starbucks also announced today that the board has appointed Myron E. Ullman as its new chair of the board and Mellody Hobson as vice chair of the board effective when Schultz retires.

“There are no words to fully express our gratitude to Howard for the extraordinary company he has built,” said CEO and board member Kevin Johnson. “He’s helped Starbucks earn the respect of millions around the world by always being true to a higher calling, and always being bold in creating a better future. He’s taught all of us that it’s possible to be a very different kind of public company. That must, and will, continue on my watch.”

Schultz commented, “Kevin Johnson is a true servant leader, and he will lead Starbucks as this great company enters its next journey. It’s our duty as leaders to constantly reimagine Starbucks. I am honored to call Kevin my friend and partner. And Starbucks is fortunate to have him. This leadership team is extraordinarily capable. They, too, believe that Starbucks has a responsibility to use our scale for good.”