business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Street reports that as Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz prepares to step down from the role for a third time, he is promising " one last major surprise to fans of the brand."

In an earnings call, Schultz said:  "While Starbucks has launched many successful coffee beverages over the years, my Starbucks journey will come full circle when I return to Milan later this month to introduce something much bigger than any new promotion or beverage … While I was in Italy last summer, I discovered an enduring, transformative new category and platform for the company, unlike anything I had ever experienced. The word I would use to describe it without giving too much away is alchemy.

"We won't unveil details today, but it will be a game changer, so standby."

Schultz, who returned to the CEO job for a third time after the retirement of Kevin Johnson, will stay on the board when he cedes the role to Laxman Narasimhan, who was named to the post last October.

KC's View:

Let's be clear - Howard Schultz deserves enormous credit for making Starbucks one of retail's great stories, and essentially inventing a category.

But … since he as named incoming CEO last October, Laxman Narasimhan has been virtually invisible to the outside world.  I wonder how many CEOs would take a top job in which they'd have to hang around six months before actually being allowed to do the job.

And now, with this "game changer," Schultz - in my mind, at least - confirms that whatever he says about his dedication to the company, it is really all about him.  This is his surprise, his transformative platform, his alchemy.  This is all about ego … and if Schultz had any class at all, he would want Narasimhan to be in a position to take the credit and to start his tenure with a transformative move.

This is venti narcissism, with three shots of hubris.