New CEO of Starbucks — a ‘world-class leader,’ says Howard Schultz — will do a stint as barista

Starbucks Corp.’s soon-to-be chief executive is a “world-class leader” with deep knowledge of consumer-product companies and will spend time as a barista to get to know the company, the coffee chain’s three-time CEO, Howard Schultz, said Thursday.


announced earlier Thursday it had named Laxman Narasimhan as its new chief executive, effective Oct. 1.

Narasimhan will step down as CEO of Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC

an Anglo-Dutch multinational consumer-goods company, on Sept. 30.

The new CEO joins Starbucks at a time of turmoil for the company as more of its employees seek to unionize and sales have been stagnant in recent quarters.

Narasimhan, who joined Reckitt from PepsiCo Inc.

in 2019, is widely credited with turning around Reckitt, which stretched itself thin buying Mead Johnson for $17 billion in 2017 and lost millions to a ransomware cyberattack that same year.

Reckitt’s brands include Lysol cleaners, Mucinex cough medication and Enfamil baby formula. The company announced Narasimhan’s departure earlier Thursday, saying the executive wanted to relocate back to the U.S. and had been “approached for an opportunity that enables him to live there.”

At Pepsi, his name was on a shortlist of candidates to replace Indra Nooyi as CEO before the job went to Ramon Laguarta in 2018.

Schultz took over as interim Starbucks CEO in March when then-CEO Kevin Johnson announced his retirement.

Starbucks has embarked on a “reinvention plan” in recent months, and Schultz said that the incoming CEO knows the plan “in detail.” Once Narasimhan is on board, “he will immediately begin a full immersion into Starbucks as we accelerate our work to transform the company for the future,” Schultz said, including time as a barista, visiting roasting plants, distribution centers and farms at which Starbucks grows coffee beans.

Shares of Starbucks edged higher in the extended session Thursday after ending the regular trading day up 1.6%. The stock has lost 27% so far this year, compared with a loss of about 17% for the benchmark S&P 500 index
It was up 0.2% in premarket trades Friday.

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