Starbucks chief executive retires, with founder Howard Schultz to return on interim basis

Kevin Johnson is stepping down on April 4 after 13 years with the company

Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the Annual Meeting of Shareholders in Seattle, Washington on March 22, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / Jason Redmond
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Starbucks has risen in early trading after announcing that chief executive Kevin Johnson plans to retire next month and chairman emeritus Howard Schultz will return to the helm as his interim replacement.

Mr Johnson, 61, is stepping down on April 4 after 13 years with the company, Starbucks said on Wednesday.

He had signalled to the board a year ago that he would consider retirement when the pandemic neared an end, the company with headquarters in Seattle said.

Mr Schultz, 68, is coming back after a challenging start to the year for Starbucks, which faces rising costs and a growing unionisation push across the US.

He will rejoin the board and handle day-to-day management in addition to helping to find a new leader, which Starbucks expects to be completed by autumn.

“When you love something, you have a deep sense of responsibility to help when called,” Mr Schultz said.

“Although I did not plan to return to Starbucks, I know the company must transform once again to meet a new and exciting future where all of our stakeholders mutually flourish.”

Shares of Starbucks rose by as much as 9.3 per cent in early trading in New York. The stock has gained 42 per cent since Mr Johnson took over as chief executive in April 2017.

That compares with gains of about 80 per cent for competitor McDonald’s and the S&P 500 index.

Updated: May 30, 2023, 12:04 PM