Starbucks to Eliminate COO Role with Departure of John Culver

John Culver, COO of Starbucks, who will step down in October.
John Culver

Starbucks COO John Culver announced in a letter to employees that he would be leaving the company on Oct. 3, 2022 after 20 years at the global coffee chain. With Culver’s departure, the COO role will be eliminated to allow for the “best immersion and support” for the company’s new CEO, who is expected to be named later this year.

In March, Starbucks’ Founder Howard Schultz again assumed the role of CEO when current CEO Kevin Johnson announced his retirement. This is Schultz’s third time at the helm, although from the outset it was announced that his term would be brief, with the company saying it hopes to find a new permanent CEO ahead of this holiday season. Schultz is expected to stay on as interim CEO until Q1 2023 to help with the transition, after which he will remain on the Board.

Culver also plans to stick around to help with the transition of his responsibilities. After Oct. 3 he will transition to an executive advisor role supporting the new CEO, with plans to depart the company at the end of the year.

“Given the moment we find ourselves in with our reinvention underway, this is the right decision as we chart the course and the future path for Starbucks,” said Culver in his letter. “Over the last several months, I have worked closely with Howard and members of the [executive leadership team] to set in place the foundation for our reinvention, while we plan for the next chapter of leadership at Starbucks.”


Starbucks has had a rollercoaster year, marked by steady unionization efforts at stores across the U.S., an effort the company initially tried to resist. Thus far, more than 220 Starbucks stores have successfully unionized and more continue to cast ballots. In response the company has rolled out communications and wage initiatives to appease workers.

Despite this, Starbucks posted better-than-expected results in Q3, fed by U.S. consumers who turned to the company’s cold drinks to beat the summer heat. Net sales rose 9% to $8.15 billion and the company reported global same-store sales growth of 3%.

Upon Culver’s departure, all day-to-day operational functions will now report directly to the CEO, while strategy and enabling functions will report to Frank Britt in his newly expanded role of EVP, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer.

Culver also announced a number of other new appointments and one departure:

  • Sara Kelly has been permanently appointed as EVP, Chief Partner Officer;
  • AJ Jones II has been permanently appointed as EVP, Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer;
  • Liz Muller — a former Starbucks associate who was responsible for the design of the Starbucks Roasteries and Reserve stores — will serve as a consultant to the Global Growth and Concepts team, working with SVP, Store Development and Design Andy Adams to co-create “our global store of the future as we reinvent the partner, customer and store experience”; and
  • EVP of Global Supply Chain George Dowdie will be leaving the company.

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