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By Ted Johnson

LOS ANGELES (Variety) – WASHINGTON — Howard Schultz is stepping down as executive chairman of , increasing speculation that he will make a run for president in 2020.

Since joining the company in the 1980s, Schultz saw Starbucks grow from 11 outlets to 28,000 stores, along the way changing the expectations of consumers when it comes to coffee consumption.

He also has been noted for his socially conscious approach to the company, and he has long been floated as a prospect for a presidential run. He certainly did not dissuade that talk on Monday. When asked by The New York Times whether he would consider it, he said, “I intend to think about a range of options, and that could include public service. But I’m a long way from making any decisions about the future.”

Schultz will take the title of chairman emeritus on June 26. Myron E. “Mike” Ullman will serve as the new chairman of the board and Mellody Hobson will serve as vice chair when Schultz retires.

Schultz has at times been outspoken about politics and other social issues, diverging from many atop the corporate ladder who don’t want to risk offending political figures or their customer base. Just last week, he said on CNN that the Trump’s rhetoric has “given license to people to feel as if they can emulate and copy the kind of behavior and language that comes out of this administration.”

He had been on CNN to talk about Starbucks’ move to close 8,000 company stores for special training following an incident in Philadelphia in which an employee called the police on two African American men who were waiting in a Starbucks store for a friend.

The company has been embroiled in controversy over other issues, such as when Schultz requested in 2013 that patrons not bring firearms into stores. He also has spoken out against Trump’s refugee ban and expressed support for Dreamers, the undocumented immigrants who entered the United States when they were children.

Schultz stepped down as CEO last year and was succeeded by Kevin Johnson.

“I set out to build a company that my father, a blue-collar worker and World War II veteran, never had a chance to work for,” Schultz said in a letter to employees announcing his retirement. “Together we’ve done that, and so much more, by balancing profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigor, and love and responsibility.”

Schultz is among a number of corporate executives who have weighed presidential bids, apparently fueled by the ability of Trump to win the White House without having held any prior political office. Robert Iger, the CEO of the Walt Disney Co., considered a bid until he signed a new contract, and Dallas Mavericks owner and producer Mark Cuban also has been weighing a candidacy.



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