Howard Schultz exits as Starbucks CEO 2 weeks early amid unionization turmoil


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Howard Schultz’s decades-long run as Starbucks’ chief executive came two an abrupt end Monday as he stepped down two weeks earlier than expected.

Schultz handed over the reins to Laxman Narasimhan, who was tapped as incoming CEO on Oct. 1 and was slated to assume the top job of the java giant on April 1 amid a reorganization of the company and fast-advancing labor movement.

Schultz and Starbucks have faced a revolt from workers who have been leading unionizing efforts at several locations around the country.

Schultz did not address his early exit in his letter to senior management Monday.

“As I turn Starbucks over to you now, know that you have my utmost confidence, trust and love,” wrote Schultz, who built the small Seattle coffee company into a global behemoth.

“You all are the future of Starbucks. The world needs Starbucks – and Starbucks needs all of you.”

The National Relations Labor Board has issued 82 complaints against Starbucks.
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On Thursday, the company will hold its annual shareholder meeting at which investors will vote on proposals pertaining to the company’s handling of the thorny labor dispute and management issues.

The National Relations Labor Board has issued some 80 complaints over the company’s handling of a unionization effort by its employees, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The agency has certified unions at 288 Starbucks stores, or 3% of the company’s 9,300 US locations, according to the report.

The company has denied that it violated labor laws and has accused the NLRB of unjustly siding with the employees.

Laxman Narasimhan.
Laxman Narasimhan became incoming CEO of Starbucks on Oct. 1.

Narasimhan takes over Starbucks after working in London, where he was the CEO of consumer products conglomerate Reckitt, which owns such brands as Lysol, Woolite and Mucinex.   

“I am humbled to officially step into my role as Starbucks chief executive, leading our incredible team of more than 450,000 green apron partners around the world,” he said in a statement.

He has been working alongside Schultz for the past six months, the company said.

Schultz has been a vocal critic of the unionization of the company while Narasimhan has yet to speak out on these issues.

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