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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, left, with incoming CEO Laxman Narasimhan, Sept. 7, 2022.
Source: CNBC

Starbucks on Monday said that Laxman Narasimhan has officially become CEO, nearly two weeks earlier than expected.

He’ll lead the coffee giant’s annual shareholder meeting Thursday, marking his first public address as its chief executive.

After being named incoming CEO in September, Narasimhan has spent months learning about Starbucks’ business, including training as a barista. The official transition was expected to happen April 1.

Prior to his appointment, he was chief executive of Reckitt, which owns brands like Lysol, Durex and Mucinex. He also previously worked at PepsiCo and McKinsey.

Narasimhan takes the reins from Howard Schultz, who is ending his third stint in the top job.

“Today, I am entrusting you all with Starbucks – something that holds a place in my heart second only to that of my beloved family,” Schultz wrote in a letter to company leadership that was viewed by CNBC.

Schultz returned nearly a year ago after former CEO Kevin Johnson surprised investors by announcing his retirement.

This time around, Schultz suspended the company’s buyback program for months, pushed back against baristas’ union plans and announced a new strategy to keep up with how the company’s business has transformed.

Since Schultz returned April 4, Starbucks stock has risen nearly 8%, bringing its market value to $113 billion. The S&P 500, meanwhile, has fallen more than 13% over that time.

Despite stepping down earlier than anticipated, Schultz is still expected to testify in front of a Senate panel on March 29 about the company’s alleged union-busting activity.

In September, Schultz told CNBC that he’s never planning on coming back as Starbucks’ chief executive again.

Investors have been putting pressure on the company to make sure that never happens. On Thursday, shareholders will vote on a proposal from SOC Investment Group, which represents pension funds sponsored by unions, that would require the Starbucks board to start succession planning at least three years in advance.

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