Starbucks May Be Selling Its Russian Stores To A Rapper And A Restaurateur

As an early economic responder to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Starbucks announced in March 2022 that it was suspending all business operations in Russia, as noted by NPR. That announcement was a preliminary pause — but now, the coffee giant is leaving for good. After a 15-year brand presence in the country, all 130 stores operated by Starbucks in Russia will make a full exit. And that's not all; the company appears to be making good on its permanent departure commitment by selling the stores to some high-profile individuals.

A Starbucks licensing agreement with the Alshaya Group in Russia employs about 2,000 "green apron partners," explains Reuters. A Starbucks statement released on May 23 indicated those workers would continue to receive salaries along with help transitioning into new jobs. It's unsure at this point whether the 130 Starbucks-branded stores will continue operating as coffee venues — but it's not out of the question, considering the potential new buyers.

Russian buyer backgrounds in food and music

Restaurateur Anton Pinskiy, owner of multiple food venues in Russia, revealed in mid-July that he is a co-buyer of the Starbucks stores in Russia, along with famous Russian rapper Timati, per Reuters. A reported third partner is the Sindika holding company affiliated with Russian senator Arsen Kanokov. The new partnership will reportedly continue leasing some Starbucks premises but must be fully rebranded with no access to Starbucks products or technology. Starbucks has yet to confirm the sale as of publication.

Rapper Timati, legally named Timur Yunusov, openly claims global ambitions related to the food industry, explains Russia Beyond. His Black Star brand incorporates a clothing line, music recording company, and dozens of restaurants, including Black Star Burgers. Yahoo! reports that Timati has a longtime history of supporting Vladamir Putin's regime, releasing a 2015 song titled "My Best Friend is President Putin."

In addition to Starbucks, at least three more major beverage companies have joined Starbucks in closing Russian operations, including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Heineken, per The New York Times. Additional food-related Russian exits come from McDonald's, Nestlé, Mars, Little Caesars, and Yum Brands, which is transferring ownership of its KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants to local operators.

Starbucks reiterated in a letter to its Russian investors in early March that they strive to never be a mere bystander, vowing to continue humanitarian and economic support for Ukraine, including a $500,000 donation to the World Central Kitchen and the Red Cross.