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When news broke in December that Starbucks‘ long-time CEO Howard Schultz was stepping down, it fueled rumors that the coffee exec was considering a second career in politics.
Publications from breakfast-centric website Extra Crispy to the Financial Times ran articles in recent months speculating whether or not Schultz was considering a president bid. The FT wrote that his last shareholders’ meeting “sounded more like a stump speech than a message to investors.”
As rumors swirl, Starbucks’ new CEO said that the decision to pursue politics will be Schultz’s alone.
“Selfishly, I love having Howard in the office next door, to help me and help Starbucks,” Kevin Johnson told Business Insider, when asked if Schultz would make a good US president. “That would certainly be a very personal decision that he would have to make. But, I am a fan of Howard.”
Johnson was officially appointed Starbucks CEO on Monday. Schultz will remain at the company as chairman of the board, with a focus on the company’s upscale Reserve brand and the chain’s social initiatives.
Schultz has been outspoken on social issues as CEO of Starbucks.
In 2015, discussion of Schultz’s political aspirations reached such a fever pitch that the executive published an op-ed in The New York Times explaining why he wasn’t planning on running for president. But later in 2016, Schultz told CNN that he would “never say never” on a presidential run.
In the months before the 2016 election, Schultz endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Had she won, Schultz would have reportedly been her top pick for labor secretary.