The man behind Starbucks as we know it today will step down as the company’s executive chairman to pursue other goals, Howard Schultz announced on Monday.
“I’ll be 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,” read a memo to employees from Schultz, who will step down on June 26.
The now-chairman emeritus’s move has fueled speculation about his political ambitions, and he hinted at a 2020 presidential run to the New York Times.
“I want to be truthful with you without creating more speculative headlines,” he said. “For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country — the growing division at home and our standing in the world.”
“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,” the billionaire said. “I’m not exactly sure what that means yet.”
During their presidential runs, Schultz offered his full-throated support for both former president Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He referred to President Trump last year as “a president that is creating episodic chaos every day.”
Schultz, 64, joined Starbucks in 1982 and built the brand up from what was one Seattle coffee shop in 1971 to the 28,000 locations worldwide it is now.
“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. Together we’ve done that, and so much more, by balancing profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigor, and love and responsibility,” he said.
His departure comes as Starbucks tries to edge away from a firestorm over the arrests of two black men for “trespassing” in one of the company’s Philadelphia locations as they sat waiting for a friend.
The incident sparked protests across the country, and Schultz tried to restore trust by closing 8,000 U.S. locations for an afternoon of racial bias training.
“We realize that four hours of training is not going to solve racial inequity in America,” Schultz said, but “We need to have the conversation. We need to start.”
Schultz has gone back and forth from CEO to a lower position where he focused on global strategy. He currently owns 37.8 million shares of Starbucks, now worth about $2.17 billion.