Howard Schultz According to the coffee chain on Thursday, Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz will step down as the company's chief executive. Starbucks added in a statement that current President and COO Kevin Johnson will become its next CEO while Schultz will transition to executive chairman. The changes will become official on April 3, 2017. Schultz first joined Starbucks in 1982 as director of operations and marketing when the coffee giant reportedly only had four stores. Following the announcement, shares for Starbucks dipped about four percent in after hours trading.