Starbucks names next CEO, going outside tech industry for coffee giant’s new phase

Laxman Narasimhan, who was named the next CEO of Starbucks Thursday afternoon, brings experience in international business and consumer brands, most recently leading the turnaround of Reckitt Benckiser, the British company known for products including Durex condoms and Lysol disinfectant.

He does not have an extensive track record at a major tech company, which makes his appointment a departure from the previous Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, the former Microsoft and Juniper Networks exec who stepped down from his role at the coffee giant in March. His departure brought Howard Schultz back in an interim CEO role, as the company searched for a successor.

Narasimhan, 55, was named the next CEO on Thursday afternoon. He’ll join the company on Oct. 1, after relocating from London to the Seattle area. Starbucks says he will serve as incoming CEO until April 1, 2023, with Schultz remaining in the interim role until then.

“I am humbled to be joining this iconic company at such a pivotal time, as the reinvention and investments in the partner and customer experiences position us to meet the changing demands we face today and set us up for an even stronger future,” Narasimhan said in Starbucks’ news release.

He announced his departure from Reckitt on LinkedIn on Wednesday, writing that he was leaving “a stronger and more resilient business” than it was when he started at the company three years ago.

Narasimhan previously held a number of leadership roles at PepsiCo, including as global chief commercial officer. Prior to that, he was a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, focused on its consumer, retail and technology practices in the U.S., Asia and India and leading the firm’s thinking on the future of retail.

A native of Pune, India, Narasimhan moved to the U.S. to attend the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1991.

Schultz told The New York Times that Starbucks was in search of “a true servant leader that had a deep sense of humility” and that Narasimhan is “a true operator” with “the DNA of an entrepreneur.”