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Winners & Losers (April 29, 2013)
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (Photo: Kevin Casey/Bloomberg/Getty)
'NO, NO—SCREW YOU'
CEO Howard Schultz displayed some very un-CEO like behaviour at the coffee giant’s recent AGM in Seattle. At one point during the meeting, Schultz was confronted by shareholder Tom Strober, founder of the anti–gay-marriage, anti-abortion Corporate Morality Action Centre. The activist was angry about Starbucks’ 2012 endorsement of a Washington state bill proposing to legalize gay marriage—a bill that ultimately was passed. Strober suggested that boycotts of the global coffee chain over its stance resulted in a disappointing quarter, and thus, being pro-gay was bad for business. Schultz fired back: “Not every decision is an economic decision.…We did provide a 38% shareholder return over the last year....Having said that, it is not an economic decision to me. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity.” The speed with which the assembled shareholders cheered on Schultz suggested no applause signs were needed. The chief exec then drove his point home, telling Strober, “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year…you can sell your shares in Starbucks.” With that, Schultz proved two things: 1) The tide in the U.S. has definitely begun a major turn in support of gay marriage, and 2) Starbucks officially is too big to care what anyone thinks. One grande mocha, please.