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Howard Schultz named interim Starbucks CEO as Kevin Johnson retires

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is retiring after five years at the helm of the company, the coffee chain announced on Wednesday — paving the way for the return of Howard Schultz on an interim basis. Schultz, the man credited for turning the Seattle-based restaurant into a global behemoth, will assume the title of interim CEO while the company board searches for a permanent replacement. He will be paid $1 to take control of the coffee chain. This is the third time Schultz will take over as Starbucks chief executive in his 30-year history with the firm. “A year ago, I signaled to the Board that as the global pandemic neared an end, I would be considering retirement from Starbucks,” Johnson said in a statement. “I feel this is a natural bookend to my 13 years with the company.” Johnson, who will step down April 4, added: “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.” Johnson was elevated to CEO in 2017 after serving as Schultz’s president and chief operating officer. Johnson, 61, joined the board of Starbucks in 2009 after a stint as CEO of Juniper Networks. He is credited with helping bring Starbucks into the digital age as well as expanding its footprint in China, the company’s second-largest market. Schultz, 68, released a statement saying he had no plans to return to the company as a full-time CEO. “When you love something, you have a deep sense of responsibility to help when called,” he 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.” Schultz added: “With the backdrop of COVID recovery and global unrest, it’s critical we set the table for a courageous reimagining and reinvention of the future Starbucks experience for our partners and customers.” Schultz has taken an active role with the company in recent weeks. He appeared at a Buffalo location to urge workers there to vote down a unionization effort. Workers at more than 130 Starbucks locations have petitioned to form unions. In 2019, Schultz mulled an independent bid for president.

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