New Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan Takes the Reins Earlier Than Expected

Howard Schultz steps down as CEO of Starbucks for the third time and Laxman Narasimhan steps up earlier than expected.
Laxman Narasimhan
Laxman Narasimhan. Credit: Starbucks

Laxman Narasimhan has taken the reins from Howard Schultz as CEO of Starbucks nearly two weeks earlier than expected.

Narasimhan, who was named the coffee company’s incoming CEO last September (Narasimhan officially joined the company as incoming CEO on October 1, 2022), also joins the company’s board of directors as of Monday. It was originally planned he would step into the roles on April 1.

Over the past five months, Narasimhan has traveled to over 30 stores, manufacturing plants, and earned his barista certification. Narasimhan will lead Starbucks Annual Shareholder Meeting on March 23.

“Laxman’s intensive immersion into the business coupled with his extensive experience as a proven brand builder, innovator and operator have uniquely prepared him to lead Starbucks into its next phase of growth,” said Mellody Hobson, independent Starbucks board of directors chair. “This immersion has deepened Laxman’s understanding of Starbucks culture and values. In this time of learning and listening, he has already won the hearts and minds of our partners around the world.”

“I am humbled to officially step into my role as Starbucks chief executive officer, leading our incredible team of more than 450,000 green apron partners around the world. The foundation Howard has laid – building from scratch an iconic global brand fueled by a lasting passion to uplift humanity – is truly remarkable, and I am honored to have the opportunity to build on this deep heritage,” said Narasimhan. “As a human connection business, we have limitless possibilities to deliver for our partners, our customers, our investors and our communities through every cup and every connection. I am excited to work alongside our partners worldwide to unlock the limitless future of Starbucks.”

Schultz shared a letter to the company’s senior leadership team, in which he wrote:

“Our company is like a river – the stewards of it will change over time, but it’s always growing and changing, carving a new path and moving forward to something better.

As I step away, I leave you all as the stewards, in service of all of our partners. They are the heart and soul of our company – the living embodiment of human connection. Through the years, I’ve seen over and over the profound impact our partners have on our customers, from a new parent whose first outing is to a Starbucks to introduce their baby to their favorite barista, to a store where partners learned sign language to better serve a deaf customer, to a widower who said that when he goes to his Starbucks, it may be the only time all week someone greets him by name. Our partners are making a difference in millions of lives a day. Serve them well.

Schultz returned as interim CEO on April 4, 2022, after Kevin Johnson left the retailer. In September, Schultz told CNBC that he’s never planning on coming back as Starbucks’ chief executive again. He served as CEO from 1986 to 2000, and from 2008 to 2017

“The board wants to express our sincerest thanks to our founder, Howard Schultz, for selflessly picking up the leadership mantle when asked—forgoing compensation and putting aside his own pursuits—for the love of our company and its partners,” said Hobson. “We would not be where we are without him.”