Former Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz is recognized as one of the most influential, successful, and visionary business leaders in the world today. He is renowned for his successful leadership, business ethics and sense of public responsibility. He was Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year for 2011.
He became director of retail operations and marketing for the Starbucks Coffee Company, Seattle in 1982, which at the time, only sold coffee beans, not coffee drinks. He travelled to Italy and was inspired to open an espresso bar in the U.S. His Starbucks bosses said no, so he started a rival store in 1985, making his java with Starbucks beans. After founding the coffee restaurant company Il Giornale, in 1987, he purchased Starbucks for $3.8 million. At the time, most Americans didn’t know a high-grade coffee bean from a teaspoon of Nescafé instant coffee, and coffee consumption in the US had been going down since 1962. His recipe was a success however, and he took Starbucks public in 1992.
In 2000, Schultz publicly announced that he was resigning as Starbucks’s CEO. Eight years later, however, he returned to head the company, and to save it from a downward spiral, caused by the economic recession, and poor strategic decisions. In his absence, Starbucks thrived at first, yet the perils of breakneck mass-market expansion began to set in, and customer traffic started to decline for the first time. Schultz turned it around with true leadership. Staff were retrained, technology modernized, operations improved. By 2011 Starbucks’ stock price was up more than five times from its 10-year low in 2008.