Message from Howard Schultz: Gratitude, optimism as Starbucks announces leadership changes

Howard Schultz with group of smiling Starbucks partners

In a letter to Starbucks partners, the chief executive officer thanks outgoing chief operating officer John Culver and looks ahead to leadership changes designed to speed the company’s reinvention


I’ve relied on John Culver’s steady hand and operational excellence through his 20-year career at Starbucks. As he sets to depart the company, I remain indebted to him for his great success in directly shaping and enhancing the brand across every business and market where we operate around the world. John has long been a champion of our partners and in building our next generation of great talent here at Starbucks. As a true servant leader, he has offered his continued advisory support to me and the leadership team through this transition, for which I am grateful.

Our Reinvention requires us to rethink our leadership structure to create every opportunity for our new ceo and, most importantly, to accelerate delivery of modernized and elevated experiences for our green apron partners and our customers.

As we speak to the external candidates in consideration for the ceo position, we’ve shared the Reinvention Plan and our aspirations for the future. The candidates are extremely excited and positive, and each is pleased to see we are investing ahead of the growth curve, and reimagining the partner, customer and store experience. Each leader in consideration sees the equity and power of the brand.

Our next ceo role will work side by side with the leaders of the day-to-day running of the business. Starting Oct. 3, the following partners will report to me as ceo for the interim, and will ultimately transition to our new ceo when that individual is fully in place:

  • Andy Adams, svp, Global Growth & Concepts
  • Belinda Wong, chairwoman, Starbucks China
  • Brady Brewer, evp, Chief Marketing Officer
  • Dennis Brockman, svp, Inclusion & Diversity
  • Frank Britt, evp, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer
  • Michael Conway, group president, International and Channel Development
  • Michelle Burns, evp, Global Coffee, Tea & Cocoa
  • Rachel Ruggeri, evp, Chief Financial Officer
  • Sara Trilling, evp, president, North America Retail
  • Zabrina Jenkins, acting evp and General Counsel

In addition, the following functions, each critical to enabling our business and reinvention, will report to Frank Britt as of Aug. 22, in his expanded role of evp, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer:

  • AJ Jones II, evp, Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer
  • Deb Hall Lefevre, evp, Chief Technology Officer
  • George Dowdie, evp, Global Supply Chain
  • Nick Bowles, vp, Strategy and Corporate Development
  • Sandy Stark, svp, Data Analytics & Insights, and Business Operations
  • Sara Kelly, evp, Chief Partner Officer

I am confident that with this next leadership team we are on an accelerated path to both grow and reinvent the company. 

Thank you, John, for your 20 years of service to Starbucks, and for our enduring friendship. You are world class in all you do.



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Photo essay: Caps off to the class of 2024