Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a former Baghdad correspondent who co-authored a book on veterans with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, said he would form a media company in Seattle to produce nonfiction projects in collaboration with the coffee giant.
Washington Post journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran is leaving the storied D.C. newspaper for the other Washington to embark on a media project that will tackle social issues in collaboration with Starbucks.
“I’m not doing this so they can sell more cups of coffee. What we’re doing is trying to play a positive and constructive role — and broaden understanding across the country around issues that matter to our nation,” Chandrasekaran said in an interview.
Chandrasekaran, a former Post bureau chief in Baghdad, is well acquainted with America’s foreign wars.
His new venture is an outgrowth of a collaboration last year with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on a book about U.S. veterans.
His new company, to be based in Seattle, will produce nonfiction TV documentaries and other forms of media creating “social impact through creative storytelling,” said Chandrasekaran, who is a senior correspondent and associate editor at the Post.
This surprising turn in the career of a well-known journalist underscores how Starbucks, tightly led by Schultz, is becoming an increasingly visible player in social and political issues beyond the realm of its core business of providing a “third place” for coffee lovers. The economic and psychological condition of veterans returning from America’s foreign wars is one of its top priorities, and a particular concern for Schultz.
In addition to promoting “For Love of Country,” the book Chandrasekaran and Schultz wrote together, the company last year has vowed to employ thousands of veterans and military spouses in its sprawling coffee shop empire.
The move is also a reminder of how Seattle companies are growing tentacles into the world of media. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought the newspaper Chandrasekaran works for in 2013.
“I’m essentially moving from the orbit of one Seattle-based businessman to another,” Chandrasekaran said jokingly.
Chandrasekaran has been at the Post for more than two decades, starting as a 21-year-old summer intern in 1994.
In 1998, he covered the antitrust case against Microsoft. According to a Washington Post memo announcing his departure, then-publisher Katharine Graham had him explain directly to Bill Gates’ friend Warren Buffett why the software giant was being pummeled at the trial.
His stint in Baghdad led to “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” the book on which the 2010 movie “Green Zone” was based. (The Post’s bureau in Baghdad, which Chandrasekaran set up, was dubbed “the Rajiv Palace” by a fellow reporter, according to the Post memo.)
Chandrasekaran also wrote a book about the Afghanistan war. He was also national editor and assistant managing editor at the Post.
A Starbucks spokeswoman said the venture is expected to start shortly after Chandrasekaran’s last day at the Post, which she said is March 2.
The partnership will initially focus on developing “content and stories associated with our veterans hiring initiative” and the book. “We expect him to collaborate on other social-impact initiatives with us through his new media company.”
Chandrasekaran declined to disclose the funding of the new company, but he said Starbucks will not be directly investing in it. Rather, they will collaborate on specific projects. “There are lots of details left to be worked out,” he said.
He added that the company will be small at the outset. His decision to move to Seattle is due to the advantages of being close to Starbucks, in order to solidify that partnership, and to Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, key hubs for venture funding and media production, respectively. Even though he’ll begin ramping up the new venture right away, he will move to the Seattle area only this summer.
Chandrasekaran said his departure from the Post is “not a reflection of how I feel about the newspaper business,” but rather the uniqueness of the opportunity that grew out of his work with Schultz.
“I think the Post is a remarkable place today,” he said, describing it as brimming with energy and dynamism.