When Starbucks held its first Annual Meeting for Shareholders in a small meeting room in downtown Seattle’s Olympic Hotel in 1993, the mood was celebratory. Starbucks had grown more than 60 percent since its initial public offering the year before, with 165 stores in the United States and Canada, including its first stores in San Diego, San Francisco and Denver. Starbucks chief executive officer Howard Schultz addressed the meeting, telling the gathering of 30 or 40 people about the company’s plans to open 78 new stores that year, including its first in New York.
The Starbucks annual meeting soon outgrew the meeting room, so for several years the loading dock at its roasting facility in Kent, Wash. became an auditorium, with burlap bags of unroasted coffee stacked around the seating space and music provided by a local high school jazz band. By the late ’90s, Starbucks moved on to more theatrical spaces with larger audiences at venues like the Paramount Theater and Benaroya Hall.
Over the years, the meeting has showcased company initiatives, while also entertaining shareholders with skits and stunts. Starbucks recreated a Parisian circus to celebrate the company’s entry in France in 2004, performed a song-and-dance number in a mock Starbucks store in 2005, and paid tribute to a David Letterman segment by memorably piping coffee onto the stage from the top of the Space Needle in 2006.
As Starbucks prepares to raise the curtain on its 25th Annual Meeting of Shareholders at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall today (March 22), here’s a look back at some of the event’s most memorable moments.
Singer and songwriter k.d. lang took to the stage barefoot for her bravura performance in 2008.
Sheryl Crow played an acoustic set of favorites for the 2010 gathering.
Canadian Tenors and Martha Wainwright
The vocal super group Canadian Tenors blended harmonies with singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright in 2011.
Jazz artist Esperanza Spalding performed at the 2012 event, fresh off her Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
Musician and actor John Legend entertained the crowd at the piano in 2013 with his new hit “All of Me.”
Playing for Change
The 2014 meeting, opened by television writer and producer Norman Lear, featured Playing for Change, a global musical group with street performers from around the world.
Jennifer Hudson and Common
In 2015, American hip-hop recording artist and actor Common performed a song from the movie “Selma,” and surprise musical guest Jennifer Hudson, the award-winning singer and actress, ended the event with “Titanium.”
An 11-member troupe of Starbucks partners from Chengdu opened the 2016 Annual Meeting with a performance of biàn liǎn, an ancient Chinese art form with vividly colored face-changing masks.
The 2016 meeting ended on a high note with a set by R&B artist Alicia Keys at the piano.