The Business On... Howard Schultz, chief executive, Starbucks

Wednesday 13 July 2011 00:00 BST

The man behind the empire?

The very same: though Mr Schultz can't take the credit for founding Starbucks, he did join the business almost at the start in 1982. And it was his idea to launch a coffee shop chain – originally, Starbucks just sold coffee beans.

So what's he up to now?

He's just announced a reorganisation of Starbuck's. Until now, the company has had just two divisions: US and international. Now he wants to break the latter up into regional businesses as part of an expansion drive.

He's not overstretching himself?

We shall see. But to be fair, Starbucks followers do think the brand has big international opportunities, especially in Asia, because only 20 per cent of sales come from outside the US. And Mr Schultz usually calls it right – he stood down from day-to-day operations at Starbucks for several years but returned in 2008 as chief executive after sales plunged. He's got the business back on track.

What's his story?

An inspiring one actually. He grew up in humble surroundings in New York and was the first member of his family to go to university – on a sports scholarship.

Then Starbucks made him rich?

He usually makes the rich list, it's true. And in true billionaire style, he bought a sports franchise, Seattle's basketball team. That adventure got him into trouble in his home town when he sold up, because the buyers moved the team to Oklahoma.

Any other controversies?

Well, there was a spat with Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary under Labour, who was furious when Mr Schultz warned in 2009 that the UK economy was in a downwards "spiral". The Starbucks boss promptly retracted his remarks.

Has that made him nervous about the UK?

Not if his drive to sell his books is anything to go by. Starbucks' 700 British branches have all been stocking his latest tome, How Starbucks Fought for its Life Without Losing Its Soul. Just the thing while you're sipping a hot wet double skinny latte.

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