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Starbucks operating chief to depart as company eliminates role under ‘reinvention’

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Starbucks Chief Operating Officer John Culver is departing the company after two decades with the coffee chain, as part of a restructuring that will eliminate his role.

His exit comes in the middle of a broader executive reshuffling at Starbucks. Former CEO Kevin Johnson retired earlier this year, leading Howard Schultz to return to the helm of the company as interim chief executive until long-term successor is named.

Effective Oct. 3, Culver will step down from his current role and become an executive advisor until he leaves the company at the end of the year.

Starbucks said it will eliminate the role of chief operating officer, with many of Culver’s direct reports being managed by Schultz. Frank Britt, the company’s chief strategy and transformation officer, will supervise the rest, including the global supply chain and technology divisions.

John Culver, Starbucks
Source: Starbucks

Since his return, Schultz has promised that bold changes are on the way. Investors will hear more details on that strategy at the company’s investor day in Seattle on Sept. 13. Cowen analyst Andrew Charles assigned a 50% probability that the new CEO is announced at the investor presentation in a note to clients on Thursday.

“As we speak to the external candidates in consideration for the ceo position, we’ve shared the Reinvention Plan and our aspirations for the future,” Schultz wrote in his letter to employees on Thursday addressing Culver’s departure. “The candidates are extremely excited and positive, and each is pleased to see we are investing ahead of the growth curve, and reimagining the partner, customer and store experience.”

Starbucks has used its chief operating officer role as a training ground for future chief executives, and Culver was seen as a potential candidate for the top job. However, Schultz said in June that the company is looking externally for the new chief executive, who is expected to be announced in the fall.

Culver has served as chief operating officer and president of the company’s North American business for a little more than a year. Prior to that, he oversaw Starbucks’ international, channel development and global coffee, tea and cocoa divisions. Culver is also on the boards of Columbia Sportswear and Kimberly-Clark.

“Given the moment we find ourselves in with our Reinvention underway, this is the right decision as we chart the course and the future path for Starbucks,” Culver wrote in a letter to employees on Thursday.

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