Starbucks names Laxman Narasimhan as its next CEO

Narasimhan will become incoming CEO at Starbucks on October 1. He will officially begin his role in April and will then join the company’s board of directors, as well.

The Reckitt Benckiser Group, where Narasimhan most recently served as CEO, announced earlier on Thursday that he would be stepping down.

Narasimhan steps into the role at a pivotal moment for Starbucks.

In the United States, the company is trying to fend off a unionization wave in the United States. Meanwhile, strict Covid-19 restrictions have been hurting the company’s business in China, a crucial market.
Laxman Narasimhan will become Starbucks' new CEO.

In the six months before Narasimhan officially takes over, he will spend time with Schultz, other company leaders, employees and customers and become acquainted with the reinvention plan recently laid out by Schultz, who has said the company needs an overhaul.

“The Starbucks business as it is built today is not set up to fully satisfy the evolving behaviors, needs and expectations of our partners or customers,” Schultz wrote in an open letter in July. “It is not designed for the future we aspire to for ourselves and the communities in which we serve.”
Schultz’s plan for change includes “radically improving” the experience of employees and redesigning stores, he wrote at the time. The company has since made changes like closing some stores, citing safety concerns.

Narasimhan said in a statement Thursday that he is “humbled” to join Starbucks “as the reinvention and investments in the partner and customer experiences position us to meet the changing demands we face today.”

On Thursday, Schultz said Narasimhan is the right person for the job.

“He is a strategic and transformational leader with deep experience in building powerful consumer brands,” Schultz said. “He is the leader we were looking for.”

Narasimhan’s previous company, Reckitt Benckiser, is the UK-based maker of several hygiene and health brands, including Durex condoms, Lysol and Mucinex. He was named CEO of the multi-billion dollar company in 2019.

The British company said in a statement earlier Thursday that “Laxman has decided for personal and family reasons to relocate back to the United States and has been approached for an opportunity that enables him to live there.”

Before joining Reckitt Benckiser, Narasimhan held several positions at PepsiCo (PEP), including global chief commercial officer. He was also a senior partner at McKinsey, focusing on consumer and retail.

Mellody Hobson, independent chair of the Starbucks board, called Narasimhan “an inspiring leader,” adding that “his deep, hands-on experience driving strategic transformations at global consumer-facing businesses makes him the ideal choice.”

News of the Narasimhan’s appointment comes ahead of Starbucks’ annual investor day on September 13.

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