Starbucks Founder Howard Schultz to Return as Interim CEO Following Retirement of Kevin Johnson

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson will retire after five years as CEO, effective April 4, 2022. Johnson will continue to serve Starbucks as a special consultant to the company and Board of Directors through September 2022. Starbucks founder and former CEO Howard Schultz will rejoin the company as Interim CEO as it searches for a permanent successor.

Johnson spent 13 years at Starbucks and joined the top leadership team in 2015, when he was named President and Chief Operating Officer. He went on to establish the People Positive, Planet Positive and Profit Positive framework that Starbucks has followed to build its social and environmental efforts, including the recent push for more inclusive technological offerings such as speech-to-text to improve communication for differently-abled people.

“On behalf of the entire Board, I want to express our sincerest thanks to Kevin for his leadership of Starbucks,” said Mellody Hobson, Independent Starbucks Board of Directors Chair in a statement. “Kevin and the entire executive team stepped up to the challenge of the pandemic and navigated one of the most difficult periods in modern history. The economic certainty provided to partners during the early months of the COVID shutdown, as well as during mandatory quarantines, underscores our core values and will be an enduring legacy for the company.”

“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 in a statement. “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.”


The transition will mark Schultz’s third stint as CEO of Starbucks. He first held the role from 1986 to 2000, then again from 2008 to 2017. Both periods marked significant growth for the coffee retailer — Schultz’s second tenure saw the company‘s valuation rise from $15 billion to $84 billion and its global footprint expand from 16,000 locations to 25,000 in 75 countries.

As Interim CEO, Schultz will focus on setting an “innovation framework” for the company and onboarding the next permanent CEO. Schultz will be volunteering his time in the role and will receive $1 in compensation.

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

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