Starbucks' CEO transition unlikely to stymie growth: analysts

Fri Dec 2, 2016 12:31pm EST
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By Sruthi Ramakrishnan

(Reuters) - Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz's decision to step down is unlikely to hamper growth at the world's biggest coffee chain as his successor Kevin Johnson is well suited to take the helm, analysts said.

Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O: Quote) said on Thursday that Schultz would step down as CEO on April 3 to focus on new high-end coffee shops, handing the top job to Chief Operating Officer Johnson, a long-time technology executive.

The company's shares were down 2.5 percent at $57.02 on Friday as investors worried that the exit of one of Wall Street's most regarded CEOs would spell trouble for the company.

Analysts, however, downplayed these concerns.

"Howard can't be in that position forever," Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy told Reuters.

Hottovy said the timing of the handoff made sense because the company had a strong management team and Johnson had more retail experience than the market was giving him credit for.

Johnson worked with Schultz for nearly two years and has been on Starbucks' board since 2009.

He also has a strong technology background, including stints at Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O: Quote) and Juniper Networks Inc (JNPR.N: Quote), which sets him up to lead Starbucks at a time when the company is looking to project itself as a pioneer in mobile payments technology.   Continued...

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, speaks during the company's annual shareholders meeting in Seattle, Washington March 19, 2014. REUTERS/David Ryder