blunt essays with sharp points

Howard Schultz of Starbucks: firm on support for marriage equality

by Scrvpvlvs
Apr 9, 2013 1:29 AM–Tom Strobhar buys small quantities of stocks for the privilege of making regressive statements at shareholders meetings. He made a statement opposing corporate support for marriage equality at the March 20, 2013 Starbucks shareholder meeting. Howard Schultz, CEO, gave the response for Starbucks.

Starbucks has video of this exchange at Note: access requires registration. If you look closely at the frame below, you can get quite a good sense of Mr Strobhar’s demeanor.

Inaccurate excerpts from this exchange have been widely circulated. What follows is an accurate transcript of the entire exchange. Corrections are welcome.

[2:23:35 Begin transcript]


[Unintelligible] Schultz, my name is Tom Strobhar. I’m in the investment business. I’m also a longtime shareholder. And to paraphrase Mr. Lincoln: that’s two scores and two years ago our company was founded. Until January a year ago, we existed without making gay marriage a core value of our company. [Unintelligible] we did quite well.

At last year’s annual meeting I asked you if it was prudent to risk the economic interests of all the shareholders, possibly jobs of our partners, for something that would benefit the private lives of a small number of our employees. You responded a couple things: one, indicating that the sales and earnings, the stock price, which then was near record highs, seemed to vindicate that decision, and that, two, you respect other people’s opinion on this subject, and I appreciate that.

Unfortunately, after last year’s annual meeting, the National Organization for Marriage called for a boycott of our company. It’s my understanding that something like tens of thousands of people signed on to this particular boycott, and in the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings, shall we say politely, were a bit disappointing. Now was it all due to this boycott? Probably not. Was some of it due to this boycott? Probably so. Our stock value in a couple of days dropped about six or seven billion dollars, and about thirteen billion dollars from its high. And though we did well on a calendar year basis in two thousand and twelve, if you look back twelve months from this date a year ago our stock’s up about six percent, the S&P five hundred is up about eleven or twelve percent.


What is your question?


My question is this, and this is a really specific one: you also say—you've mentioned civility, and you've written about civility—


I want the question, sir.


My question is this. A human rights campaign which calls everybody a hater and a bigot if they disagree on marriage, which is very hurtful and it’s designed to silence people. When will you stop funding, as Starbucks does to the tune of ten thousand dollars a year, an organization that uses the most uncivil language in the most direct way?


And I welcome that question as I did last year. Because not every decision is an economic decision.

Despite the fact that you recite statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38 percent shareholder return over the last year. I don’t know how many things you invest in, but I would suspect not many things—companies, products, investments—have returned 38 percent over the last twelve months.

Having said that, it is not an economic decision for me. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity: of all kinds.

[Speaking over fifteen seconds of cheers and applause:] If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You could sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much. [Cheers and applause.]

[2:27:00 End transcript.]

Makes you want to go out and buy a cup of coffee.

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