Laxman Narasimhan has taken over Starbucks CEO responsibilities from Howard Schultz effective Monday, the Seattle-based coffee giant said in a statement.
The announcement comes sooner than expected. Starbucks previously said the transition would run until the end of March, and Narasimhan, who was named incoming CEO in September, would assume duties fully in April.
As CEO, Narasimhan joins the company’s board of directors. He will also lead Starbucks’ annual shareholder meeting on March 23, Starbucks said.
In a statement, Narasimhan said the foundation Schultz has laid at Starbucks is remarkable. “I am honored to have the opportunity to build on this deep heritage.”
Three-time chief executive Schultz, who returned as interim CEO in April 2022, continued to lead Starbucks during the transition. Last fall, Schultz unveiled a companywide strategy — dubbed a reinvention plan — that invests more than $1 billion in stores and employees, according to Starbucks.
Before joining Starbucks, Narasimhan was chief executive of U.K.-based Reckitt, which makes Lysol, other household goods and baby formula products. Narasimhan has spent the past five months immersed in Starbucks’ operations and reinvention plan, the company said.
“This immersion has deepened Laxman’s understanding of Starbucks culture and values,” said Mellody Hobson, chair of the Independent Starbucks Board of Directors.
“I could not be more confident Lax is the right CEO at the right time for Starbucks,” Schultz told investors during his last earning calls in February.
Starbucks reported record sales in the first quarter of fiscal year 2023 that ended Jan. 1, but missed analysts’ expectations as a result of inflation and global conditions, particularly in China.
Schultz is stepping down just days before he is scheduled to testify before a Senate committee regarding Starbucks’ alleged labor law violations. His agreement to testify came after extended pressure and a subpoena warning from the committee chair, Sen. Bernie Sanders. The hearing is scheduled on March 29.
Starbucks has been facing a growing union campaign movement since November 2021. At least 285 stores have successfully unionized. There are 509 unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks and 102 against the union, Starbucks Workers United.
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