Howard Schultz

MONEY & BUSINESS: Howard Schultz left Starbucks board over ‘distraction’ concerns

Howard Schultz left the board of Starbucks altogether this week — and insiders with historical knowledge of the business say it’s because the outspoken billionaire realized he had become a “distraction” for the giant coffee chain he built.

In March, Schultz left the chief executive role at Starbucks for the third and final time.

But in recent months, Schultz and other board members came to feel that even his presence as a board member was too controversial, insiders said.

“The business has changed a ton since Howard’s heyday,” a source said. “It doesn’t make sense for him to be part of it anymore.”

During his most recent stint as interim CEO, Schultz declared Starbucks “under assault from unionization.” Shortly thereafter, he was hauled in front of Congress to testify about the company’s compliance with labor laws and face the wrath of progressive senators like Bernie Sanders.

At a fiery March hearing, Sanders alleged the coffee company was engaged in the “most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country.”

The hearing wasn’t viewed as a big public relations win.

In March, Howard Schultz left the chief executive role at Starbucks for the third and final time.
Paola Morrongiello

In recent years, Schultz also has grabbed headlines with his presidential ambitions and strident anti-union views.

Still, it’s unclear how the board will handle controversies moving forward.

And as Starbucks faces growing movements to organize its baristas throughout the country, Schultz isn’t expected to keep quiet, according to a source close to the company.

“He’s not disappearing… when he has a perspective to be made known,” the source said.

In a statement Schultz said, “I look forward to supporting this next generation of leaders to steward Starbucks into the future as a customer, supporter and advocate in my role as chairman emeritus.”

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