Starbucks' Howard Schultz Got Candid About Whether He'd Return To His CEO Role

Howard Schultz has led Starbucks from just a few locations to one of the largest coffee empires in the world, and most recently, through some tumultuous times as the company adjusts to an organized labor movement among its employees. Schultz is uniquely qualified to speak on the experience of serving multiple stints as the company's chief executive officer and he divulged his thoughts about that gig.

Schultz first went to work for the coffee brewer in 1982 when the corporation consisted of just four shops in the Pacific northwest of the United States (per Starbucks). In 1987, he took over as CEO for the first time after becoming part of the ownership group. He served as CEO (the first time) until 2000 and during that stint, the chain expanded to over 3,000 locations across three continents. Schultz stepped down from the CEO role at the turn of the 21st century, but eight years later would take the job on again, putting in another decade of service as Starbucks CEO as he retired in 2018 (via Starbucks).

In April 2022, Schultz came out of retirement after former CEO Kevin Johnson announced his retirement (per Starbucks). Starbucks says Schultz agreed to fill the role on an interim basis until they found a permanent replacement, which CNBC reported the company did in September. With Schultz on his way out again, he shared whether he would come back a fourth time.

Schultz is ready to call it quits

Howard Schultz gave an interview to CNBC's Squawk Box on Wednesday, September 7 and addressed the issue of whether he would fill a fourth stint as CEO, according to CNN. Schultz stated, "I am never coming back again because we found the right person" in reference to Laxman Narasimhan, who Starbucks hired to become its next CEO (per CNN). Schultz will retain his place on Starbucks' board of directors when he eventually steps away from the CEO job. CNN explains that although Narasimhan will come on board with Starbucks in October, Schultz will continue in an advisory role until April 2023.

Schultz's current tenure as interim CEO has seen some controversy more recently. For example, Business Insider says New York City filed a lawsuit against Starbucks as the coffee company announced Narasimhan's hire, alleging the company illegally retaliated against an employee who had led a unionization push at one of its stores. In June 2022, Yahoo reported on Starbucks closing a store in Ithaca, New York that had been the site of the formation of the first Starbucks union, which Starbucks remained silent on for months. The growth of unionization among Starbucks employees will soon be a challenge for Narasimhan to take on with Schultz stepping away.