Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is retiring and Howard Schultz is returning as interim CEO

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is retiring after five years in the job.

Howard Schultz will return as interim CEO, once again at the helm of the company he has elevated to a global brand while the company searches for a long-term successor. This will be his third term as CEO of the coffee giant.

The company’s shares were up 6% in premarket trading on the news. The company announced the leadership transition ahead of Wednesday’s annual shareholder meeting.

“A year ago, I indicated to the board of directors that as the global pandemic neared its end, I would consider retiring from Starbucks. I feel this is a natural end to my 13 years with the company,” Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson joined the Board of Directors in 2009 while serving as CEO of Juniper Networks, and became a member of the leadership team in 2015 as President and Chief Operating Officer. In 2017, Johnson was appointed president and CEO to succeed Schultz. In his last letter to employees, he wrote that Wednesday’s annual shareholder meeting coincides with his fourteenth meeting with the company.

In addition to guiding the company during the pandemic, Johnson has used his experience as a former tech executive throughout his tenure to push Starbucks into the digital age, revamping its loyalty program and updating its store footprint to reflect the different ways consumers want to buy their coffee. . It also accelerated the chain’s expansion into China, which is now its second largest market.

In his time as president, Starbucks shares are up more than 50%, including pre-market gains on Wednesday.

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Starbucks CEO Melody Hobson told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that the company intends to pick a permanent successor by fall.

“We’re not going to hire more than Zoom, I can tell you,” Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments, told CNBC. “Squawk Box”.

She added that the company already had a number of strong candidates vying for the top position.

Schultz, 68, said in a statement that he had never had any plans to return to the company. He served as CEO from 1986 to 2000, and again from 2008 to 2017. He also The weight of the probability of running for the presidency before the 2020 elections.

“When you love something, you have a deep sense of responsibility to help when you call. And while I didn’t plan to return to Starbucks, I know the company must transform again to meet an exciting new future where all of our stakeholders thrive,” Schultz said in a statement. . “With the backdrop of the coronavirus recovery and global turmoil, it is critical that we set the table to reimagine and reinvent the future Starbucks experience for our partners and customers.”

The company said Schultz’s salary as interim CEO will be $1. Hobson said the company would rely on his “excellence and brilliance” during the transition period, but he denied staying longer as the company’s next full-time CEO.

“We have a great list of candidates,” she said. “People want this job, and we’re very confident we’ll have a new leader in the fall.” “He won’t stay for three years… We’ll have him until the fall, full stop. Believe me.”

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The CEO’s turnaround falls against the backdrop of increased unionization efforts among Starbucks employees. Even today, Nearly 140 Starbucks stores in 26 states She has petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to form unions, according to regulators of Starbucks Workers United. Six sites so far They voted for the union.

In a move that could signal his return to the company, Schultz appeared at Buffalo, New York-area cafes before the union election, along with top Starbucks CEOs, to discourage baristas from voting for unions.

This week, the National Labor Relations Board File a complaint Against the backdrop of the accusations, Starbucks hit back at two employees in Phoenix who were seeking to standardize the location of their store. On Tuesday, a group of 75 investors in Starbucks sent a message Hobson and Johnson urged the company to adopt a policy of neutrality for all current and future attempts by its workers to organize.

Hobson said Tuesday that Starbucks “made some mistakes” when asked about the union’s endeavor.

“When you think, again, why we are so dependent on Howard at this moment, that connection with our people where we believe he is uniquely able to engage with our people in a way that will make a difference,” she said.

Johnson’s retirement announcement marks the fourth major CEO move from a publicly traded restaurant company in recent months.

Domino’s Pizza CEO Rich Allison will retire at the end of April, and Darden Restaurants Jin Lee would do the same the following month. wing stop It was announced Monday that CEO Charlie Morrison is stepping down to become CEO of Salad and Go, a much smaller power chain.

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