Starbucks CEO Johnson to retire, Schultz will return as interim CEO

March 21, 2022
Starbucks president and chief executive officer, Kevin Johnson, is retiring after 13 years of service. Howard Schultz to return as interim CEO.

Starbucks Corporation announced that Kevin Johnson, president and chief executive officer, intends to retire after a 13-year tenure at the company, including the last five years as CEO. Johnson will transition from his current role on April 4, 2022, and will continue to serve as a Starbucks partner (employee) and special consultant to the company and board of directors through September.

The Starbucks board of directors has been engaged in continuous CEO succession planning, assisted by Russell Reynolds Associates since 2021, and anticipates selecting a new leader by the fall. To ensure seamless stewardship of the company until a permanent successor is named, the board has appointed Howard Schultz as interim CEO, effective April 4, 2022. Schultz will also rejoin the company’s board of directors.

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 CEO, succeeding founder Schultz. 

Johnson established the People Positive, Planet Positive and Profit Positive framework that seeks to create 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. 

“A year ago, I signaled to the Board that as the global pandemic neared an end, I would be considering retirement from Starbucks,” said Johnson. "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. 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.” 

Schultz will serve as interim CEO until a new leader has been identified. In addition to the day-to-day management of the company, Schultz will participate in the search process and help onboard the next CEO. 

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

As interim CEO, Schultz will focus on setting an innovation framework. “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 a responsible community member and corporate citizen. 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,” said Schultz. 

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