Starbucks CEO slams activist investors: ‘At times it's nothing to do with producing value’


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Photo: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
Photo: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says he is concerned by the activity levels of activist investors as eBay investor Carl Icahn fires off regular Tweets calling for it to spin off Paypal.

Schultz’s comments are interesting given activist investor Nelson Peltz’s recent spat with the PepsiCo board as he pushes for the company to separate its global snacks and beverage businesses.

It’s fair to say things have become a little acrimonious in recent weeks, since Peltz's letter to the PepsiCo board on February 19 (trailed to the media) resulted in the company replying with an attack on him for what it said was “selective, and in many instances misused”​ data​, as he presses for the split.

Icahn reportedly holds just over 2% of eBay’s stock, but has pressured the firm for weeks to spin off the online payments business, and repeatedly criticized the company for poor corporate governance.

For instance, a Monday Tweet from Icahn reads: “We believe based on evidence we have newly uncovered that Donahoe’s incompetence cost eBay holders over $4bn.” ​(John Donahoe is eBay CEO.)

Asked on FOX News yesterday, Starbucks’ Schultz was careful to distance himself from eBay and Icahn, but made some strong, general comments.

“Running a public company today, the level of activism and concerns like that concern me, because there are times when I think the activists are getting engaged in companies for reasons that have nothing to do with producing value,”​ the coffee giant’s CEO said.

“And it concerns me a bit, but I don’t want to get engaged with what’s going on with eBay and Mr Icahn,”​ Schultz added.

Discussing Starbucks' continued expansion of mobile payment systems, Schultz said: “I will say that we believe we have an opportunity to create a value-added service outside of the Starbucks ecosystem that eventually could compete with Paypal, but we’re a long way from that."

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