“My wife and I very early on made the decision that we thought was best for them that neither one of them should be in this business. That would put more pressure on them and would be unfair,” he says.
To unwind, he plays chess with friends and enjoys “quiet dinners. I’ve had the same tight group of friends that I’ve had for 20 to 30 years, from college and my young career, early on.”
He has a passion for wine, though he doesn’t provide details of his extensive collection. He reads biographies, the last one being about General Marshall and his leadership strategies: “I’m a voracious reader.”
And he believes business should have a social conscience. He says last month’s U.S. government shutdown was “shameful.” He personally went to the White House to deliver a petition with nearly two million signatures in protest.
“I felt a need to provide a vehicle and a platform for the millions of Americans whose lives were being shattered by the shutdown but did not have a voice to express their concern and their outrage,” he says.
“I do believe that most businesses in the future should not be a bystander when they witness or see something that is inconsistent with what we believe should be the values of elected officials.”
Today, he’s got too much on his plate to leave the business – and he’s not satisfied.
“The question of not being satisfied has been something that’s kind of systemic throughout my career,” he says. “There really is no finish line, metaphorically. And if there was a finish line, then there wouldn’t be much to do.”
Married to Sheri; they have a son, Jordan, and daughter, Addison.
Hobbies: reading, chess, wine collection.
Bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University.
2008: Starbucks chief executive officer and president and chairman
2000: Stepped down as CEO and became chairman
1987: Purchased Starbucks with the help of local investors
1986: Launched Il Giornale coffeehouses
Other: Before joining Starbucks, he was vice-president and general manager of Hammarplast U.S.A., a Swedish housewares company. He spent three years in sales and marketing with Xerox Corp.
He is co-founder of Maveron LLC, a venture capital group.
In his own words
“We are witnessing a seismic change to consumer behaviour. And as a result of that, every company must understand that embracing the status quo as an operating principle is going to be basically a collision course with time.”
“We must have the courage and conviction to make big bets even if they’re unorthodox. And we must maintain the entrepreneurial DNA of the company despite the fact that we have 19,000 stores in 62 countries serving 70 million customers a week and employing 250,000 people.”
“We have to provide both indulgent food products to our customers as well as healthy alternatives. And you’re going to see a significant elevation of that in Canada in the near future.”
“Tim Hortons is a Canadian icon that we’ve always respected, especially the heritage they have deep with the Canadian family and the hockey association. So we understand that and we respect it but we co-exist with them. And we’ve had three back-to-back record years.”
“I think because I grew up in such a poor background that I’ve been imprinted early on with what it means to grow up on the other side of the tracks. So when I hear stories of 800,000 [U.S.] government workers not being able to make their mortgage payments or buy groceries because they’re not getting paid … because of the government shutdown, these are things that strike an emotional chord in me perhaps more than others.”
“The gun issue was a little bit different than the issue of the government shutdown. The tragedy in Connecticut, beyond touching all of us as human beings, also touched the Starbucks family because one of our baristas was a part-time school teacher and was murdered in the school that day.”