- Howard Schultz, the several-time CEO of Starbucks, resigned from the coffee giant’s board of directors on Tuesday, according to a form 8-K filed with the Securities and Exchange commission Wednesday.
- Schultz’ resignation from the board comes several months after he stepped aside as interim-CEO in favor of Laxman Narasimhan.
- Wei Zhang, a senior advisor to the Alibaba Group, will take a seat on Starbucks’ board on Oct. 1. Starbucks has focused much of its plan for international unit growth on China, where it hopes to open a new store every nine hours until 2025. Zhang has extensive experience in that market, including stints at News Corp. China and CNBC China, according to the press release.
Schultz’ resignation is unlikely to change much at the company, given his departure from the leadership role earlier this year.
“We see little to no impact to fundamentals in the near or medium term as the company's three-year reinvention plan is being executed by his selected leadership team,” analysts at BTIG wrote in a note reviewed by Restaurant Dive. BTIG did say Schultz’ departure was disappointing, and said he had a “magic touch” when it came to the brand’s identity. Unionized workers, however, have said Schultz’ third spell as CEO did damage to the company’s brand.
Starbucks Workers United, which faced off with Schultz at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee hearing in March, just days after Schultz left the CEO role early, celebrated his departure as a chance for the company to alter the strategy it has used against the union.
“We hope this is an opportunity for Starbucks to change course, come to the bargaining table and leave their union-busting behind them,” the union said in a message to Restaurant Dive.
Schultz rejoined the company as interim CEO in 2022, at the height of a wave of organizing triggered by SBWU’s victories in the Buffalo, New York, area union elections. Since Schultz's return, the company appears to have made use of the structural advantage delay gives to employers in extended union battles. The goal of such a strategy is to wear down the union's base of support through attrition and turnover, leaving it vulnerable to decertification elections.
Aside from its union trouble, Starbucks debuted a new kitchen system designed to maximize labor efficiency in the preparation of cold coffee drinks in September 2022. The chain continued with its reinvention plan, driven by a need to raise traffic back to pre-pandemic levels.
The company, in keeping with its public devotion to Schultz, named him chairman emeritus for life. Schultz, the company said, intends to spend his retirement working on philanthropic ventures with his wife, Sheri.