Howard Schultz is leaving Starbucks at the end of the month.
“I set out to build a company that my father, a blue-collar worker and World War II veteran, never had a chance to work for,” Schultz said in a letter to current and former Starbucks partners. “Together we’ve done that, and so much more, by balancing profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigor, and love and responsibility.”
Following Schultz’s retirement, former chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney Myron E. Ullman will take over as chair, and Mellody Hobson will service as vice chair of the board.
Prior to stepping into the executive chairman role in 2017, Schultz served as CEO of the company from 1986-2000 and from 2008-2017. During his time with the company, Schultz has been credited with growing Starbucks locations from a mere 11 stores to over 28,000 locations in 77 different countries.
Schultz has long been known for his commitment to his employees through programs like the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, which helps part-time and full-time employees pay for college tuition, and diversity initiatives in stores and among team members. However, Schultz and the brand have been under increasing scrutiny of late following the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia store.
Just last week, the brand shut down its stores for the afternoon so employees could participate in sensitivity training. A recent study from YouGov BrandIndex found that despite the company’s best efforts, Starbucks is still experiencing a 10-year low in terms of its brand reputation.
While Schultz’s farewell letter did not directly address some of the recent events at Starbucks locations, he did include this note in his letter:
Please remember, Starbucks is at its best when our stores and offices are welcoming places for everyone. So stay true to our reason for being: inspiring and nurturing the human spirit through a sense of community and human connection. As you adhere to our core purpose, do not forget to innovate around it. Never embrace the status quo. Instead, have the curiosity to look around corners and the courage to push for reinvention. Change is inevitable, and the world has become a more fragile place since we first opened our doors. Amid the chaos, try to listen with empathy, respond with kindness, and do your best to perform through the lens of humanity. Do not be a bystander. Instead, choose to be responsible for what you see and hear. No person or company is ever perfect, so learn from mistakes and be forgiving of yourself and others. And when goals are achieved, remember: success is always best when shared. And yet… success is not an entitlement; it must be earned every day through hard work and teamwork. If you strive to be the best version of yourself and bring out the best in others, your dreams will come true again and again, and Starbucks mission, values, and guiding principles will endure.