The Executive Chairman of Starbucks will leave his current role on 26 June.
Schultz joined Starbucks in 1982 and was CEO from 1986 to 2000 and 2008 to 2017. Last year, he moved into the role of Executive Chairman.
He is widely credited with driving its growth into one of the most instantly recognisable retailers. Starbucks currently has more than 28,000 locations worldwide and has grown 21,000 per cent since its initial public offering in 1992.
In the memo he sent to staff on Monday to formally announce his resignation, Schultz said he is “thinking about a range of options for myself, from philanthropy to public service, but I’m a long way from knowing what the future holds”.
He also gave a lengthy, wide-ranging interview to the The New York Times and is scheduled to appear on CNBC Tuesday morning New York time. The high-profile nature of his exit and his growing willingness to comment on political issues have added to the speculation he is considering running for US President in 2020.
Breaking News: Howard Schultz will leave @Starbucks at end of month. End of era. Says he will consider “public service” among options. Speculation will mount about 2020. I’m going on @CNBC NOW to discuss. Read my story here: https://t.co/gvoSuwWP0y
— Andrew Ross Sorkin (@andrewrsorkin) June 4, 2018
“I have been deeply concerned about our country”
In The New York Times interview he did not commit to a tilt at the presidency, but nor did he back away from the question. He also struck a decidedly presidential tone in outlining his worldview.
“For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country – the growing division at home and our standing in the world,” he said.
“One of the things I want to do in my next chapter is to figure out if there is a role I can play in giving back. I’m not exactly sure what that means yet.”
The 64-year-old Schultz has previously been mentioned as a possible nominee for the Democratic Party. He supported the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
He has also been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump’s presidency, saying the US President is “creating episodic chaos every day”, last year.
— CNN (@CNN) June 4, 2018
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election victory, Schultz circulated a note to Starbucks staff that set out how he hoped everyone could “overcome the vitriol and division of this unprecedented election”.
“We can choose to answer the challenges of the day with kindness and compassion,” the note continued.
“We can choose to listen, to understand and to act with respect.”
— Notre Dame News (@nd_news) June 5, 2018
“He’s a maverick”
Schultz has supported a number of progressive causes such as same-sex marriage and raising the minimum wage. At Starbucks, he implemented initiatives to employ returned military veterans.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, an academic at Yale School of Management, told CNBC’s Closing Bell that Schultz would be an appealing candidate, being “young, healthy and (having) such passion”.
“Howard has never been a member of the business roundtable. He’s not a standard part of corporate America. He’s a maverick.”Tim Hubbard, from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, told CNBC Schultz is a pioneer in terms of running a socially conscious company that excels financially.
“He has served as an example to other executives who work towards socially responsible firms, and as an example to board members who frequently cite his behaviour as models for executives.”
Schultz certainly has the deep pockets necessary for a presidential campaign. His net worth is estimated above US$3 billion.
In the immediate future, he plans to write a book about the social impact of Starbucks and the role of companies in a fast-changing society.