With Starbucks chairman stepping down Black exec Mellody Hobson steps up

Mellody Hobson
NEW YORK - MARCH 08: Presenter Mellody Hobson attends the Jackie Robinson Foundation Annual Awards Dinner at the The Waldorf Astoria on March 8, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Jackie Robinson Foundation)


There is a changing of guard at Starbucks and a Black woman will lead the company in a top role.

Financial guru Mellody Hobson will take over and serve as vice chairwoman when Starbucks’ longtime chairman Howard Schultz steps down at the end of June, reports Black Enterprise.

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Hobson’s depth of knowledge and financial expertise is expected to bring a breath of fresh air to the embattled company after it was embroiled in a discrimination scandal when two Black men were arrested without cause at a Philadelphia store.

Myron E. Ullman, the former chairman of J.C. Penney, will take over as the company’s new chairman.

Hobson’s inclusion as vice-chair makes perfect sense too.

When Starbucks decided to continue its global expansion by opening 1,500 coffee shops in China, CEO Howard Schultzconsulted Ariel Investments’ President Hobson and former PepsiCo executive Olden Lee, along with its other nine board members.

Hobson represents the business elite, responsible for oversight of one of the nation’s largest publicly traded companies. As a corporate director, she is charged with the fiduciary responsibility to increase shareholder value by making decisions—from acquisitions and divestitures to executive compensation and layoffs—that will maximize earnings, dividends, and the stock price.

“She has a grace and graciousness about her that is singular,” Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former CEO of DreamWorks Animation, who had worked with Hobson, told Vanity Fair in 2015. “She is remarkably unique. She’s a stunning person. I get a little nervous talking about her because the words are so flowery. But it’s truly how I feel about her.”

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These days, corporations that don’t have black directors on their boards are operating in the Stone Age of business. Shifting demographics and the burgeoning black consumer and business markets mean corporations cannot afford to be governed without the presence of African Americans in their boardrooms. And Starbucks is on board.