Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Steps Down

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Howard Schultz is stepping down as Starbucks CEO effective next year, the New York Times and NPR report. Kevin Johnson, the company's President, COO, and a longtime Schultz ally, will take over the CEO position effective April 3. Schultz will return to his position as the company's executive chairman.

“This is a big day for me,” Schultz told the Times. “I love the company as much as I love my family.”

Schultz first joined the coffee chain 30 years ago, and is attempting to hand over the reigns for the second time. He stepped down as CEO first in 2000 to serve as executive chairman, a position he held until 2008, when he replaced executive James Donald as sales were stagnant. Under Schultz's stewardship, the chain has grown to around 25,000 stores in 75 countries. Since taking the reigns again in 2008, he increased the company's valuation from $15 billion to $84 billion.

The move fuels speculation that Schultz may seek to enter politics. He's nurtured close relationships with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Not only that, but Starbucks has often championed progressive causes under his watch. Those have included writing "Come Together" on cups during the 2011 government shutdown and providing tuition to employees seeking a college education.

Shares of Starbucks fell 3.6 percent to $56.44 after-hours trading following Schultz's announcement.

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