Howard Schultz: Starbucks Isn’t Anti-Trump

Key Speakers At The New York Times DealBook Conference
Howard Schultz, chairman and chief executive officer of Starbucks Corp., listens during the New York Times DealBook conference in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. The event brings together CEOs, leading figures in finance, and experts from diverse industries to assess the challenges and opportunities that will define the deal world of tomorrow. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo by Michael Nagle—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Outgoing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz publicly backed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for president this year. And although she lost to President-elect Donald Trump and a few angry Trump fans launched a #TrumpCup protest at Starbucks, Schultz doesn’t think the brand has a problem with Trump supporters.

In an interview with CNBC on Friday, just one day after Schultz announced he would step down as CEO in 2017, the coffee giant guru was asked if his brand was at all at odds with those that supported Trump’s candidacy.

The Starbucks (SBUX) chief essentially argued that coffees and teas are bipartisan.

“I don’t think on any level that the brand or what we represent is at odds with the president elect or his supporters,” Schultz told CNBC. “90 million customers a week are going through Starbucks stores and I assume many of them voted for Donald Trump.”

The comments from Schultz are important as Starbucks has been subjected to one of many post-election boycotts that have targeted well-known consume brands. A #BoycottStarbucks hashtag floated around social media channels for some time now and the #TrumpCup campaign percolated after a viral video showed a white male Trump supporter yelling at a barista, claiming he was subjected to anti-white discrimination.

Starbucks has been at the epicenter of the election for some time now—mostly because Schultz has been very vocal. Early this year he lamented the tone of the election, calling it “a circus of yelling bombastic attacks.” He publicly backed Clinton in September, predicted she would win in October, and said he was “stunned” by Trump’s win a day after the election.

Schultz on Friday told CNBC that he was hopeful President-elect Trump would be successful. But he also stressed that he personally, as well as Schultz’s successor Kevin Johnson and the Starbucks board, was hopeful that the Trump administration would address social issues that had been overlooked by past Republican administrations.

While Schultz didn’t specify what social issues were most important to him, he has been vocal about some hot-button topics, including gay marriage, race and diversity, access to health care, and gun control. Most of his stances on those issues have been arguably very progressive.

One thing that was left unsaid in the wake of the news that Schultz would step down as CEO next year: would he ever run for public office?

The 63-year-old executive said as recent as last month that he had no interest in becoming a politician. And as of now, the plan for Schultz is to steer Starbucks push into more premium retail experiences, inspired by the success of the company’s Roastery in Seattle.

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