New Starbucks CEO aims to build company that will last a century

Kevin Johnson says he’s not worried about Howard Schultz watching over his shoulder, and he won’t back off a social-issues agenda that ‘we believe is good for Starbucks.’

On Monday, Kevin Johnson becomes the CEO of Starbucks — the first time in nine years Howard Schultz has not been at the helm of the coffee empire he began building 30 years ago.

Tall and polished, with a ready smile and a hearty handshake, Johnson brings to the role a deep knowledge of the company, having served on the company’s board for eight years and as president and chief operating officer for the past two.

He also brings tech leadership experience, having been CEO of Juniper Networks and president of the Platforms and Services division at Microsoft.

Kevin Johnson

Title: President and CEO, Starbucks

Age: 56

City of residence: Medina

Previous positions: Chief operating officer at Starbucks; CEO of Juniper Networks; president of Platforms and Services division, and various leadership roles in sales and marketing, at Microsoft.

Family: Wife June, a former nurse; two sons, ages 32 and 29; one grandson

Nonprofit involvement: Youth Eastside Services; founding board member of NPower, which helps nonprofits use technology; adviser to Catalyst, which focuses on expanding opportunities for women in business

Hobbies: Boating, golfing, skiing, hiking

Source: Kevin Johnson, Starbucks, Microsoft

Johnson takes over at a time when Starbucks is facing some challenges: Its sales growth at stores open at least a year has slowed recently, and investors seem skeptical about its growth strategies. Starbucks shares, which had outpaced the Nasdaq index for five- and 10-year periods, have been down over the past year, lagging the Nasdaq by 20-plus percent.

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In an interview last week in Johnson’s office at the Starbucks headquarters in Sodo — an office with a side door leading to Schultz’s office — the 56-year-old executive talked about those and other issues, including whether he’s worried Schultz will hover over his shoulder, the company’s social agenda, and his favorite coffees.

Here is an edited version of the interview:

Q: Howard Schultz has said that you are more equipped to be CEO going forward than he is. You’ve served on Starbucks’ board and as president and COO. What are some additional things you did to prepare for the CEO role?

A:In the last year, I changed the way I was doing store visits. When I visit a store, I’d allocate an hour and a half, and I’d get five to seven partners, and we’d sit down and each of us would share what brought us to Starbucks and what Starbucks means to each person, and their hopes and aspirations. In doing that, I developed a deeper understanding of the company.

Q: Howard Schultz is known for his charismatic, entrepreneurial, intuitive approach to leading the company. How would you characterize your style of…

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