Starbucks names Laxman Narasimhan as new CEO, starting in April

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Starbucks on Thursday named Laxman Narasimhan as its next chief executive officer.

Narasimhan most recently served as CEO of health and hygiene company Reckitt, which owns brands like Lysol, Durex and Mucinex. He announced earlier Thursday he was stepping down from that role. He’ll join Starbucks in October, learning about the company and its reinvention plan, before assuming the top job in April.

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Until then, Howard Schultz will continue as interim CEO of the coffee chain he grew into a global giant. Schultz will remain on Starbucks’ board after Narasimhan succeeds him.

Schultz has been at the helm since April, when his handpicked successor Kevin Johnson retired after five years on the job. Schultz returned to the company as its interim CEO, earning just $1 for his salary. In the meantime, Schultz and the Starbucks board hunted for a long-term successor, with the intention of announcing the new CEO in the fall. (The coffee chain brought back the Pumpkin Spice Latte and other fall menu items on Tuesday.)

Schultz has previously said that he wants to reinvent the employee, customer and store experience to reckon with how the world has changed since the pandemic. The company is holding an investor day on Sept. 13 in Seattle, where it’s expected to unveil more details about the bold changes it plans to make.

Starbucks said in a press release that Schultz will remain “closely involved” with the plan and act as an advisor to Narasimhan.

Narasimhan previously worked at PepsiCo, serving as its global chief commercial officer among other roles. Prior to working at the food and beverage giant, he was a senior partner at McKinsey.

As CEO, he’ll have to tackle a number of challenges. In its home market, Starbucks is facing a union push, with more than 200 stores in the U.S. voting to organize under Workers United. The battle has resulted in negative headlines and legal battles. Inflation hasn’t hurt sales yet, but it has pushed menu prices higher. And China, its second-largest market, is struggling to bounce back from the pandemic, hampered by the country’s zero Covid policy.

“His deep, hands-on experience driving strategic transformations at global consumer-facing businesses makes him the ideal choice to accelerate Starbucks growth and capture the opportunities ahead of us,” Starbucks board chair Mellody Hobson said in a statement.

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