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Howard Schultz is CEO and chairman of Starbucks, the highly successful coffee company.
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"My impression of Howard at that time was that he was a fabulous communicator," co-founder Zev Siegl later remembered. "One to one, he still is."
Early on, Schultz set about making his mark on the company while making Starbucks' mission his own. In 1983, while traveling in Milan, Italy, he was struck by the number of coffee bars he encountered. An idea then occurred to him: Starbucks should sell not just coffee beans,
but coffee drinks. "I saw something. Not only the romance of coffee, but ... a sense of community. And the connection that people had to coffee—the place and one another," Schultz recalled. "And after a week in Italy, I was so convinced with such unbridled enthusiasm that I couldn't wait to get back to Seattle to talk about the fact that I had seen the future."
Schultz's enthusiasm for opening coffee bars in Starbucks stores, however, wasn't shared by the company's creators. "We said, 'Oh no, that's not for us,'" Siegl remembered. "Throughout the '70s, we served coffee in our store. We even, at one point, had a nice, big espresso machine behind the counter. But we were in the bean business." Nevertheless, Schultz was persistent until, finally, the owners let him establish a coffee bar in a new store that was opening in Seattle. It was an instant success, bringing in hundreds of people per day and introducing a whole new language: the "cafe latte"—both the beverage and the word—was introduced to Seattle in 1985.
But the success of the coffee bar demonstrated to the original founders that they didn't want to go in the direction Schultz wanted to take them. They didn't want to get big. Disappointed, Schultz left Starbucks in 1985 to open a coffee bar chain of his own, Il Giornale, which quickly garnered success.
Two years later, with the help of investors, Schultz purchased Starbucks, merging Il Giornale with the Seattle company. Subsequently, he became CEO and chairman of the Starbucks (known thereafter as the Starbucks Coffee Company). Schultz had to convince investors that Americans would actually shell out high prices for a beverage that they were used to getting for 50 cents. At the time, most Americans didn't know a high-grade coffee bean from a teaspoon of Nescafé instant coffee. In fact, coffee consumption in the United States had been going down since 1962.
In 2000, Schultz publicly announced that he was resigning as Starbucks' CEO. Eight years later, however, he returned to head the company. In a 2009 interview with CBS, Schultz said of Starbucks' mission, "We're not in the business of filling bellies, we're in the business of filling souls."
In 2006, Howard Schultz was ranked No. 359 on Forbes magazine's "Forbes 400" list, which presents the 400 richest individuals in the United States. In 2013, he was ranked No. 311 on the same list, as well as No. 931 on Forbes's list of billionaires around the globe.
Today, no one company sells more coffee drinks to more people in more places than Starbucks. By 2012, Starbucks had grown to encompass more than 17,600 stores in 39 countries around the world, and its market capitalization was valued at $35.6 billion.
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