Why The Next Starbucks CEO Will Likely Come From Outside

Howard Schultz has had a tremendous influence on Starbucks. Not only is he responsible for the names of Starbucks' cup sizes, he is largely the reason Starbucks is the coffee giant that it is today, with more than 32,000 stores in 80 countries, according to the company website. Schultz served as CEO from 1987 to 2000, during which time he turned the small Seattle coffee operation with just six stores into a nationwide coffee chain, and eventually an international powerhouse, notes CNN Business. Schultz then returned as CEO from 2008 to 2017, where he helped turn around the fortunes of the struggling company. 

Most recently, Schultz returned in April 2022 as interim CEO, after the departure of former CEO Kevin Johnson, who had served in the top role for five years. What Schultz will not be doing, however, is turning his interim CEO role into a permanent one. Despite some concerns from analysts and investors that Schultz might be planning a longer or more permanent stay for his third stint as CEO (via Yahoo! News), Schultz stated definitively in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he is not a candidate for the permanent CEO role, and that the role would most likely be filled by someone from outside of Starbucks.

Starbucks is looking for a different type of leader

In his first interview since assuming the interim CEO position in April, Schultz told the Wall Street Journal, "For the future of the company, we need a domain of experience and expertise in a number of disciplines that we don't have now" and that the company has already spoken to "several promising CEO prospects." Starbuck's board of directors then released a statement affirming its goal of identifying the next permanent CEO over the next few months, and that Schultz is expected to remain as the interim CEO until March 2023, giving the "company the ideal runway for a seamless transition and continuity of leadership through the 2022 holiday season." Schultz will remain on the Starbucks board after officially handing over the CEO reins sometime during the first quarter of 2023.

Whether that next CEO will be someone from a diverse background, with a compelling personal story, and experience in the restaurant industry, as some would like to see, remains to be seen. What is clear though is that the next permanent CEO will have plenty on his or hands from the start, including a continued recovery from the effects of the Covid pandemic, a strong push for unionization from its workers, and a struggling share price, notes CNBC.