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Howard Schultz
Howard Schultz by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Schultz in 2019
Born (1953-07-19) July 19, 1953 (age 69)
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
Education Northern Michigan University (BA)
  • Businessman
  • author
Years active 1986–present
Known for Leadership of Starbucks and co-ownership of Seattle SuperSonics
Net worth US$5.2 billion (July 2021)
Title Chief Executive Officer, Starbucks
Term 2022–present
Predecessor Jim Donald
Successor Kevin Johnson
Political party Democratic (before 2019)
Independent (2019–present)
Movement Second Wave coffee culture
Sheri Kersch
(m. 1982)
Children 2
Parent(s) Fred and Elaine Schultz

Howard D. Schultz (born July 19, 1953) is an American businessman and author. He served as the chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Starbucks Coffee Company from 1986 to 2000, and then again from 2008 to 2017. Schultz also owned the Seattle SuperSonics basketball team from 2001 to 2006.

Schultz began working at the coffeehouse Starbucks in 1982. He later left and opened Il Giornale, a specialty coffeeshop, that merged with Starbucks during the late-1980s. Under Schultz, the company established a large network of stores which has influenced coffee culture in Seattle, the U.S., and internationally. Following large-scale distribution deals Starbucks became the largest coffee-house chain in the world. Schultz took the company public in 1992 and used a $271 million valuation to double their store count in a series of highly publicized coffee wars. He stepped down as CEO in 2000, succeeded by Orin Smith.

During the 2008 financial crisis, Schultz returned as chief executive. Succeeding Jim Donald, Schultz led a mass-firing of executives and employees, and shuttered hundreds of stores. He orchestrated multiple acquisitions of American and Chinese beverage companies, introduced a national loyalty program, and enforced fair trade standards. His aggressive expansion in Chinese markets has been credited with reconciling the country's tea-culture with coffee consumption in China. Schultz was succeeded by Kevin Johnson as CEO in April 2017 and Myron Ullman as chairman in June 2018.

Schultz has written four books on business. He is an outspoken political centrist. Schultz publicly considered a candidacy in the 2012, 2016, and 2020 U.S. presidential elections as an independent candidate. He declined to join all three contests. His positions on domestic politics are socially liberal and fiscally moderate. In foreign policy, he is seen as a "liberal hawk", favoring American-led international affairs and neoliberalism. Schultz was named the 209th-richest person in the U.S. by Forbes with a net worth of $4.3 billion (October 2020). Schultz started the Schultz Family Foundation to help military veterans and fight youth unemployment.

On March 16th, 2022 Starbucks announced that the current CEO Kevin Johnson is retiring and that Howard Schultz would take over until further notice

Early life and education

Howard D. Schultz was born on July 19, 1953 to Ashkenazi Jewish parents, Fred and Elaine Schultz, in Brooklyn, New York. Fred Schultz was a truck driver. Howard has two siblings. Schultz grew up in the Canarsie public housing projects. According to Schultz, his family was poor.

Schultz spent his time after school at the Boy’s Club of New York. He is also part of the Boy’s Club of New York’s Alumni and has a “Lifetime Membership Card” which is a privilege we designate to those we consider a special member of our BCNY community.”

Schultz graduated from Canarsie High School in 1971. He attended Northern Michigan University (NMU) from 1971 to 1975, graduating with a B.A. in communications.

His grandfather was born in Manchester, New Hampshire.


Early career

After graduating Schultz stayed in Michigan and worked at a ski lodge for a year. He then took up a job in New York City as a salesman for Xerox, and was recruited by Swedish kitchenware manufacturer PAI Partners in 1979 to be general manager of its U.S. subsidiary, Hammarplast. At Hammarplast, Schultz was responsible for the coffee machine manufacturer's U.S. operations, and in 1981 he visited the Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle, Washington to fill their plastic cone filter orders.


Schultz speaking with press about Starbucks' presence in Canada, 2007.

In 1982, at age 29, Schultz was hired at Starbucks as the director of retail operations and marketing. Schultz was exposed to Coffee in Italy on a buying trip to Milan, Italy in 1983. On his return, he worked to persuade company owners Jerry Baldwin and Gordon Bowker to offer traditional espresso beverages in addition to the whole bean coffee, leaf teas and spices. After a successful pilot of the cafe concept, Baldwin and Bowker were intrigued but, noting the high cost of espresso machines, the relative paucity of expertise for maintenance and repair of the machines in America, and Americans' lack of familiarity with the drink, they decided not to deploy Schultz's idea further and he stepped down from Starbucks to start his own business. Schultz left Starbucks in 1985 to open a store of his own. He needed $400,000 to start his business. Schultz visited over 500 espresso bars in Milan and, with him assuming most of the risk associated with introducing espresso to the American market, Starbucks invested $150,000 in the new venture, with Baldwin receiving a place on its board and Bowker offering unofficial assistance. Another $100,000 investment came from local doctor Ron Margolis. Of the 242 investors Schultz approached, 217 rejected his idea. By 1986, he had raised the money he needed to open the first store, Il Giornale, named after the Milanese newspaper of the same name. The store offered ice cream in addition to coffee, had little seating, and played opera music in the background. Two years later, the original Starbucks management team decided to focus on Peet's Coffee & Tea and sold its Starbucks retail unit to Schultz and Il Giornale for US$3.8 million.

Schultz rebranded Il Giornale with the Starbucks name, and expanded its reach across the United States. This type of market strategy received mixed reception from both customers and competitors. The firm's relations with independent coffeehouse chains were strained, while some owners credited Starbucks with educating customers on coffee. Schultz did not believe in franchising, and made a point of having Starbucks retain ownership of every domestic outlet. Schultz's positioning of Starbucks as a social hub is widely seen as introducing the second wave of coffee culture in the U.S., particularly in Seattle. On June 26, 1992, Starbucks had its initial public offering (IPO) and trading of its common stock under the stock ticker SBUX. The IPO raised $271 million for the company and financed the doubling of their stores. On June 1, 2000, Schultz stepped down as CEO of Starbucks, moving to the new position of chief global strategist to help the company expand internationally. He was succeeded by Orin Smith, who worked with Schultz as his chief financial officer during the 1990s. After coordinating the first store opening in China in January 1999, Schultz took the following year to develop a customer base for coffee in the region. Throughout the late-2000s and early-2010s, Schultz directed the company to plan one to two store openings a day in mainland China. Back in the firm's U.S. market, various coffee wars with McDonalds and Dunkin' lowered Starbucks' marketshare and the stock price fell 75% from 2006 to 2008. While revenue was growing broadly, it was largely dependent on new store openings creating unsustainable (or inorganic) growth.

Gorgeous setting for a cafe inside the Xixi Wetland Park (36566278326)
A Starbucks cafe in Xixi National Wetland Park, Hangzhou China

On January 7, 2008, after an eight-year hiatus, Schultz returned as CEO of Starbucks during the height of the 2008 financial crisis. He succeeded Jim Donald who took over from Smith in 2005. The coffeehouse was increasingly criticized for employee work conditions and their internal tipping policies during this time; in March 2009 he and the board approved a $100 million settlement in back tips in a barista-led class action lawsuit in California. He led a mass-firing of executives, closed down hundreds of stores, and temporarily closed all U.S. locations to retrain employees in making espresso. Schultz redoubled and enforced the firm's fair trade and ethical source policies for their coffee bean supply-chain in Africa and other coffee-producing countries. In the succeeding two years he doubled their annual purchase of fair trade coffee, up to, by some estimates, 40 million pounds. Schultz arranged the appointment of the coffeehouse's first chief technology officer. At this time, Schultz was earning a total compensation of $9.7 million, which included a base salary of $1.2 million, and stock options granted of $7.8 million. In addition to his board membership with Starbucks Schultz was an early and significant stakeholder in Jamba Juice in 2011, and on the board of payment processing company, Square, Inc. until 2014. During the summer of 2014, Schultz launched the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a partnership with Arizona State University, which allows all employees at Starbucks working 20 or more hours a week to qualify for free tuition through ASU's online courses. It was reported in 2018 that Schultz had taken a one-dollar annual salary sometime in past couple of years.

Schultz again stepped down as CEO in December 2016, assuming the position of executive chairman. From 2008 to 2017, Schultz oversaw nearly $100 billion added to the company's market capitalization. From the 1980s to his retirement, a series of coffee wars increased Starbucks from 11 coffeehouses in Seattle to 28,000 stores in 77 countries. On June 4, 2018, Schultz announced that he would retire from active management of Starbucks, after 37 years, as he was considering amongst other options a campaign for U.S. president. Kevin Johnson, the firm's president and chief operating officer for the previous two years, succeeded Schultz as CEO while Myron Ullman took over as chairman in June 2018. Schultz would return to the role of CEO in an interim position following Johnson departing the position in March of 2022.

Howard Schultz (46020698805)
Schultz, as chairman emeritus of Starbucks, in 2019

Seattle SuperSonics and Seattle Storm

In January 2001, Schultz led a group of ten investors who bought the National Basketball Association's Seattle SuperSonics and the Women's National Basketball Association's Seattle Storm from the Ackerley Group for $200 million. During his tenure as the SuperSonics team owner, he was criticized for his naïveté and propensity to run the franchise as a business rather than a sports team. Schultz feuded with player Gary Payton, feeling that Payton disrespected him and the team by not showing up to the first day of training camp in 2002. In February 2006, he stated that the Sonics needed $200 million to renovate KeyArena or build a new arena for the team, and if the Washington State Legislature would not approve this, he would look to sell or move the team. On July 18, 2006, Schultz sold the team to Clay Bennett, chairman of the Professional Basketball Club LLC, an Oklahoma City ownership group, for $350 million, after having failed to convince the city of Seattle to provide public funding to build a new arena in the Greater Seattle area to replace KeyArena. At the time of the team's sale, it was speculated that the new owners would move the team to their city some time after the 2006–2007 NBA season.

Schultz filed a lawsuit against Bennett – in April 2008 – to rescind the July 2006 sale based on what Schultz claimed was fraud and intentional misrepresentation. However, Schultz dropped the lawsuit in August 2008. When Bennett purchased the SuperSonics and its sister franchise in the WNBA, the Seattle Storm, for $350 million, he agreed to a stipulation that he would make a "good-faith best effort" for one year to keep both teams in Seattle. The sincerity of the good-faith effort was widely disputed by the way Bennett acted and by direct quotes from his partner Aubrey McClendon. On January 8, 2008, Bennett sold the Storm to Force 10 Hoops, LLC, an ownership group of four Seattle women, which kept the team in Seattle. On July 2, 2008, the city of Seattle reached a settlement with the new ownership group and the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder for the 2008–09 NBA season. The sale to the out-of-state owners considerably damaged Schultz's popularity in Seattle. In a local newspaper poll, Schultz was judged "most responsible" for the team leaving the city. Ten years later, in 2019, Schultz accepted full responsibility for the sale. "Selling the Sonics as I did is one of the biggest regrets of my professional life. I should have been willing to lose money until a local buyer emerged. I am forever sorry."


Starbucks CEO visits Marines and Sailors at Camp Pendleton 141113-M-MV301-014
Schultz signing a book during a book tour in 2014.

Schultz has written four books, three of which incorporate business memoir-style narratives. According to the Free Library of Philadelphia, his books are known to be a blend of "part memoir and part manifesto of corporate social responsibility." At the start of 2019, Schultz released an online class that covered the business leadership topics discussed in his books on the MasterClass platform. Organizational consultant Warren Bennis has influenced Schultz's writing.

His first book, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time was written in 1997 with Dori Jones Yang. His second book, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul, co-written with Joanne Gordon, was published in 2011. Jeff Bailey, of the Los Angeles Times, called the book "self-flattering" and criticized its "mostly perfunctory account of Starbucks' actual problems". Publishers Weekly called the book "a personal, suspenseful, and surprisingly open account" of the rise of Starbucks. Kirkus Reviews praised the book's "immense detail" but critiqued Schultz's coverage of "outside criticisms of his performance". The Seattle Times was critical, saying the book could only "appeal to business types but probably not to the average latte drinker". Fast Company placed Onward within the top five books that "[predicted] the future of workplace leadership" in 2014. All sale proceeds from the book were donated to the Starbucks Foundation, the firm's main charity.

His third book, For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice, co-written with Rajiv Chandrasekaran, was published in 2014. The New York Times Book Review calling it "well-written" and "formidable." It was later added to the Times' 2014 Winter Reading List. In writing a review for The Wall Street Journal U.S. Army major general Robert H. Scales stated "after reading this moving book I’ll not likely pass a Starbucks again without stopping for a patriotic cup." The Washington Post published a similarly positive review.

In 2019, he published his fourth book, From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America. The book was widely seen as a candidate memoir as it was published right before the 2020 United States presidential election. His book received 1.9/5 stars on Amazon, after some Democratic voters gave negative reviews, due his possible candidacy splitting the Democratic vote. Rolling Stone called the book "stunningly boring" and an "autobiography of a pretentious oligarch." A book promotion stop at Harvard University led to a small student protest. From the Ground Up was featured on The Wall Street Journal's bestseller list in February, and was listed as a New York Times bestseller for 2019. Reuters rated the book highly, yet called it "caffeine free" for its inability to "harness his business success" in a potential White House run.

Political elections

2012 presidential election

At the start of the 2012 United States presidential election Schultz's name was floated as a potential Democratic candidate. After he instructed Starbucks employees in Washington to write "come together" on all cups to encourage bipartisanship in the federal government on December 26, press speculation intensified. However, Schultz "batted down" these reports days later and confirmed that he was not running for political office. He continued to publicly bemoan the political climate at the time, saying he was "not optimistic about the leadership" of the U.S. on national television. Papers continued to question the finality of his decision with New York Magazine writing "We look forward to your 2016 campaign".

2016 presidential election

In late September and early August 2015, press speculation began to surface about a potential run in the upcoming 2016 United States presidential election for Schultz. Maureen Dowd, of The New York Times, broke a story on August 1 that friends of "America’s lord of latte, Howard Schultz, have been pressing him to join the Democratic primary." Over the next couple of days media outlets began to speculate if Schultz was going to make a formal announcement. According to Fortune, he was positioned to be a "worthy party back-up to [Hillary] Clinton." Schultz wrote a New York Times op-ed on August 6, 2015 denying this, stating, "Despite the encouragement of others, I have no intention of entering the presidential fray. I'm not done serving Starbucks." Newspapers such as The Atlantic, billed Schultz as the "liberal Donald Trump" due to his comparable career as a businessman and wealth.

2020 presidential election

Howard Schultz (46934754891)
Schultz being interviewed in 2020

After Schultz stepped down from Starbucks in 2018, political commentators speculated whether he would run in the 2020 United States presidential election. There was additional encouragement from a draft movement called Ready for Schultz. At the start of 2019 The New Republic ran a piece called "Run, Howard, Run!" encouraging him to enter the contest. He hired Steve Schmidt and Bill Burton, two political consultants, to assess his candidacy. On January 27, 2019, he stated in an interview with 60 Minutes that he was exploring a run for president as an independent candidate, and that he considered running as a centrist. He was reportedly willing to spend $300 to $500 million on the 2020 election. Schultz's proposed independent candidacy was widely condemned by Democrats who argued that Schultz's third-party candidacy would help to re-elect President Trump by splitting the vote of those opposed to the president. Political scientist Larry Sabato said that Schultz's candidacy was likely to benefit Trump. However, a CNN analysis believed that "running on a deficit-reduction platform might end up syphoning as many Republican moderates away from Trump as liberals or independents away from the Democratic nominee." In response to claims that his candidacy would benefit Trump, Schultz said, "Nobody wants to see Donald Trump removed from office more than me." His first town hall in Seattle received mixed reception with protestors holding up "venti mistake" and "grande ego" banners while his actual speech was well received. As a large shareholder of Starbucks stock, Schultz was repeatedly asked about potentially selling all of his holdings if elected to the White House. "There's multiple ways to do this, set up a blind trust, do lots of things to remove any conflict of interest" he replied. He had, however, promised to release all of his tax returns if elected.

Later in February, Schultz said he would stay out of the race if the Democrats nominated "a centrist Democrat." In May 2019, Schultz delayed his decision and by September 6, officially ruled out a presidential run, stating that it wasn't the best way to "serve our country at this time." The eventual progression of centrist candidate Joe Biden as the presumptive nominee motivated Schultz to step aside due to their overlapping political ideologies. While he had not officially endorsed Biden for the presidency at the time, Schultz had stated in interviews that he "admires" the candidate. However, on 14 September 2020, Schultz endorsed Biden, and called on Americans to vote for Biden "for the future of our republic".

Personal life

In 1982, Schultz married Sheri Kersch with whom he has two children. They live in Seattle's Madison Park neighborhood, having previously lived near Madrona. Schultz is a noted coffee aficionado, reportedly drinking four to five cups of coffee every day.


Schultz was named the 209th-richest person in the U.S. in October 2020 by Forbes with a net worth of $4.3 billion. His exploration of running for political office has prompted calls for him to sell all of his stock holdings in Starbucks to appease any conflict of interest. Although not firmly committing to sell his shares upon election, Schultz has expressed interest in setting up a blind trust to hold his shares. However, Foreign Policy noted that even if in a blind trust, his interest in the shares could still prompt a conflict of interest in because the shares' performance is linked with the company's performance.

In 1998, Schultz established venture capital firm Maveron with investment banker Dan Levitan. He and Levitan primarily invest in start-up companies and seeding consumer-focused companies, such as eBay, Shutterfly, and Zulily. As of July 2014, the venture capital firm was worth $1.3 billion in assets under management (AUM).

Schultz is the owner of 'PI', a 77-metre luxury superyacht built by Feadship for $120 million.


Howard Schultz and Leroy Petry 180510-D-SW162-2241 (27170721607)
Schultz receiving an award in Washington, D.C., 2018

In 1996, Howard and Sheri Schultz co-founded the Schultz Family Foundation, which supports Onward Youth, aimed at promoting employment for young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school and not working, and Onward Veterans, which aims to help post-9/11 military veterans to successfully transition to civilian life.

Awards and honors

In 1998, Schultz received the 'Israel 50th Anniversary Tribute Award'. In 1999 AIDs Action awarded Schultz the National Leadership Award for philanthropic and educational efforts to battle AIDS. Schultz was named Fortune magazine's 2011 "Businessperson of the Year" for his initiatives in the economy and job market. Fortune went on to list him as the most generous CEO of 2015, for Starbucks' healthcare coverage, educational opportunities, and employee stock options.

Schultz spoke at the 2017 Arizona State University commencement ceremony and was presented with an honorary Doctor of humane letters degree. In November 2017, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund presented Schultz with the National Equal Justice Award.

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