Starbucks’ North American head to leave the company as chain shakes up leadership

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A pedestrian carries a Starbucks branded cup in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, April 28, 2022. Starbucks Corp.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Starbucks’ North American president Rossann Williams is leaving the company and will be replaced by the head of the coffee chain’s Asia Pacific division.

The announcement Friday marks the latest change to the company under interim CEO Howard Schultz, who returned to the top job in April after the departure of former CEO Kevin Johnson. Schultz is slated to stick around in the role through around the end of the year, after the board names a long-term successor. In his time so far, Schultz has paused the company’s stock buyback program, committed $1 billion to raise wages and improve cafes and vocally pushed back against union efforts.

“As we embark on the next chapter, we have made a difficult, but necessary change to our North America business; a change that creates new leadership for a new era at Starbucks,” John Culver, the company’s chief operating officer, wrote in a memo to employees viewed by CNBC. “The decision was not taken lightly and was one preceded by discussion about a next opportunity for Rossann within the company, which she declined.”

Williams has worked for Starbucks since 2004, when she joined the coffee chain after stints at Toys ‘R Us and Blockbuster. Over the last year, she’s been one of the public faces of the company’s efforts to curb unionization efforts by its baristas. More than 150 Starbucks cafes in the U.S. have voted to unionize, as of Friday.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Williams’s departure.

Sara Trilling, who currently serves as president of Starbucks’ Asia Pacific business, will succeed Williams in the role, effective Tuesday. Trilling has been with the company for two decades, starting out in its creative studio working on its retail store design and working her way up. Williams will help with her transition through June and Cliff Burrows, president of the company’s Americas division, will also assist in an advisory role.

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