Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz announced Thursday that he will be stepping down from his position effective April 3, 2017. Schultz has been the company’s chief executive since 2008, his second term after serving in the role from 1987 to 2000.
President and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Johnson, a 7-year member of the Starbucks Board of Directors, will assume the role and responsibilities of president and chief executive officer, effective April 3, 2017.
Schultz is not leaving the company and will be appointed executive chairman. According to a press release, he “will shift his focus to innovation, design and development of Starbucks Reserve Roasteries around the world, expansion of the Starbucks Reserve retail store format and the company’s social impact initiatives.” He will also continue to serve as chairman of the Board.
“Starbucks consistently outperforms the retail industry because our stores, our offerings and the experiences our partners create make us a destination. The best evidence of the success of the core strategy driving our business is that we continue to deliver quarter after quarter of record, industry leading revenue, comp sales and profit growth, and that the newest classes of Starbucks stores continue to deliver record-breaking revenues, AUV’s and ROI both in the U.S. and around the world,” said Schultz. “As I focus on Starbucks next wave of retail innovation, I am delighted that Kevin Johnson – our current president, COO, a seven-year board member and my partner in running every facet of Starbucks business over the last two years – has agreed to assume the duties of Starbucks chief executive officer. This move ideally positions Starbucks to continue profitably growing our core business around the world into the future.”
In addition to retail, Starbucks also owns the Evolution Fresh line of juices and yogurts, recently signed a deal to produce a line of iced teas with Anheuser-Busch InBev, and has its own branded line of RTD coffee drinks manufactured with Pepsi. The company also recently launched a line of cold brew coffee.
Fortune reported that the announcement “caught investors off guard” and came just a week before the company is set to hold an “investor’s day event.”
According to the press release, “Johnson has led the company’s global operating businesses across all geographies as well as the core support functions of Starbucks supply chain, marketing, human resources, technology, and mobile and digital platforms. Johnson has been a Starbucks board member since 2009, and will continue to serve as a member of the Board.”
“Over the past two decades, I have grown to know Starbucks first as a customer, then as a director on the board, and for the past two years as a member of the management team. Through that journey, I fell in love with Starbucks and I share Howard’s commitment to our mission and values and his optimism for the future,” said Johnson. “It is an honor for me to serve the more than 300,000 partners who proudly wear the green apron and I consider it a privilege to work side-by-side with Howard, our world-class board of directors, and a very talented leadership team. Together, we will reaffirm our leadership in all things coffee, enhance the partner experience and exceed the expectations of our customers and shareholders. We believe in using our scale for good and having positive social impact in the communities we serve around the world.”
Johnson previously spent 33 years in the technology industry, including 16 years at Microsoft and five years as CEO of Juniper Networks. In 2008, he was appointed to the National Security Telecommunication Advisory Committee where he served Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He joined the Starbucks board in 2009 and the management team in 2015.