Many have credited Schultz as having been instrumental in the forming of what Starbucks is today, having joined the company in 1982 as director of operations and marketing.
The resignation comes amid a swirl of rumours about a potential presidential run, with Schultz himself claiming he’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.”
In recent years, Schultz has been more outspoken about his political views, publicly endorsing Hillary Clinton and condemning several actions of US President Donald Trump.
“For two years, I have offered that Schultz will seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination … I still believe so,” said Douglas Kass, founder of hedge fund Seabreeze Partners Management Inc.
Myron E. Ullman, formerly chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney, will be taking up the chairman role, while Mellody Hobson, president and director of Ariel Investments will be named vice chairman.
The announcement comes just weeks after a public relations disaster for Starbucks, where two African-American men were falsely arrested in one of the chain’s Philadelphia stores.
Schultz, known for being outspoken on social issues ranging from gay marriage to government gridlock, was heavily involved in steering the company through an anti-bias training program after the incident.
In a public statement Chief Executive Kevin Johnston said the arrests of the two men led to a “reprehensible outcome” and that he would be personally overseeing a review of Starbucks’ training processes, and offered to meet the men face to face to apologise.
“We have immediately begun a thorough investigation of our practices. In addition to our own review, we will work with outside experts and community leaders to understand and adopt best practices,” he said.
The men, who were waiting for a friend, were asked to leave after using the bathroom without making a purchase but refused, at which time the manager called 911, local police said.
A video of the arrest was shared millions of times on social media, prompting many to call to boycott the coffee chain and causing protests outside many of its 28,000 locations.
Access exclusive analysis, locked news and reports with Inside Retail Weekly. Subscribe today and get our premium print publication delivered to your door every week.