Kevin Johnson steps down as Starbucks CEO

Kevin Johnson is retiring from his post as CEO of Starbucks next month after spending five years in the saddle and will continue to serve as a Starbucks partner (employee) and special consultant to the company and Board of Directors through September. Johnson, who has served on the Starbucks Board of Directors since 2009, joined the Starbucks leadership team in 2015 as president and chief operating officer. In 2017, Johnson was named President and Chief Executive Officer, succeeding founder Schultz. He has been serving as CEO since 2017, when Howard Shultz, Founder, Starbucks left the company to pursue a political ambition of challenging former President Donald Trump’s reelection by running as an independent candidate.

Johnson will be succeeded by Howard Schultz the man from whom he took the baton in 2017Starbucks Board of Directors has been engaged in continuous CEO succession planning, assisted by Russell Reynolds Associates, and hopes to e through with the selection process by the Fall. Meanwhile, to ensure seamless stewardship of the company until a permanent successor is named, the Board has appointed Howard Schultz as interim Chief Executive Officer, effective April 4, 2022. Schultz will also rejoin the company’s Board of Directors.

“On behalf of the entire Board, I want to express our sincerest thanks to Kevin for his leadership of Starbucks. Kevin and the entire executive team stepped up to the challenge of the pandemic and navigated one of the most difficult periods in modern history. The economic certainty provided to partners during the early months of the COVID shut down, as well as during mandatory quarantines, underscores our core values and will be an enduring legacy for the company. During Kevin’s tenure, Starbucks scaled an industry-leading digital offering spanning nearly 45 million Starbucks Rewards members in the U.S. and China,” said Mellody Hobson, Independent Starbucks Board of Directors’ chair.

Johnson will be remembered for his People Positive, Planet Positive, and Profit Positive framework that provided a better world for Starbucks partners, farmers, customers, and the communities it serves. He expanded the company’s reach through the Global Coffee Alliance with Nestlé, which now operates in nearly 80 markets, and established and executed the Growth at Scale agenda that significantly increased shareholder value.

Commenting on his retirement, Johnson said: “A year ago, I signaled to the Board that as the global pandemic neared an end, I would be considering retirement from Starbucks. I feel this is a natural bookend to my 13 years with the company. As I make this transition, we are very fortunate to have a founder who is able to step in on an interim basis, giving the Board time to further explore potential candidates and make the right long-term succession decision for the company,” said Kevin Johnson. “I have enjoyed every minute of the job and am proud of what we have achieved together. It has been an honor to serve the 400,000 Starbucks green apron partners around the world and I want to thank them for their service, resilience, and optimism.”

As interim CEO, Schultz will focus on setting an innovation framework, while also coaching and onboarding the next permanent CEO of Starbucks. “Our success is not an entitlement. We must continue to earn the trust of our people and our customers every day by how we deliver the Starbucks Experience, how we treat each other, and how we act as responsible community members and corporate citizens. With the backdrop of COVID recovery and global unrest, it is critical we set the table for a courageous reimagining and reinvention of the future Starbucks experience for our partners and customers,” commented Schultz.


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