Thursday, May 9, 2013

"You Can Sell Your Shares"

Howard Schultz - CEO Starbucks Corporation
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was very pointed when challenged by a shareholder at the coffee giant's annual meeting for publicly supporting marriage equality in the state of Washington.  When asked whether he felt that supporting gay marriage drove customers, and profits, away from Starbucks, Schultz essentially responded that he was not going to apologize for a year when shareholders received a 38% return on shares owned and that if shareholders were truly aggrieved by the political stance, then they could always sell their shares.

Forbes quoted CEO Schultz as follows when directly responding to a shareholder: “Not every decision is an economic decision. Despite the fact that you recite statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38% 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% over the last 12 months. Having said that, it is not an economic decision to 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. . . .  If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”

Often, disgruntled shareholders have no real claim when a corporation takes a particular position or makes a certain economic decision that impacts share price and profitability.  Selling one's shares is always the bottom line alternative if shareholders are truly disenchanted with a companies strategic vision.

Schultz's decision to come out publicly in favor of marriage equality last year was a bold move, though trending in the United States has seen a dramatic shift to a majority of Americans now favoring marriage equality.

[photo courtesy of Adam Bielawski through Creative Commons]


  1. Terrific to see a corporate executive not afraid to take a stance for equality.

  2. Remember when you could just purchase a product based on it's quality and price? I'm tired of every company feeling they need to make their political beliefs public. I can't even make a purchase without feeling like I need to google the company and see if I want to support their "party" platform first or not.