Ex-Starbucks CEO tells Senate it's 'unfair' to call him a billionaire: 'I came from nothing'

Ex-Starbucks CEO tells Senate it’s ‘unfair’ to call him a billionaire: ‘I came from nothing’

(As originally published with more from the hearing, Thu, March 30th 2023, 4:53 PM EDT)

WASHINGTON (TND) — Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz gave a little glimpse into his childhood when he testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday.

It really was a little glimpse: less than 30 seconds, trying to explain he’s not the billionaire he technically is, before Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told Schultz he was out of time.

The exchange started with Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., noting the company refused to add new benefits at stores that have unionized.

Schultz countered that benefits are subject to bargaining, but Smith tried to explain an imbalance of power within the company.

”You’re a billionaire and they are your employees,” she said. “The imbalance is extreme.”

That’s what started Schultz’s response that calling him a “billionaire” was unfair.

Ex-Starbucks CEO tells Senate it's 'unfair' to call him a billionaire: 'I came from nothing'
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz drinks from a Starbucks mug as he testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

”I grew up in federally subsidized housing,” he explained. “My parents never owned a home. I came from nothing. I thought my entire life was based on the achievement of the American dream.”

Then, onto the money issue.

”Yes, I have billions of dollars. I earned it. No one gave it to me. And I’ve shared it constantly with people of Starbucks. And so anyone who keeps labeling this ‘billionaire’ thing is…”

“Mr. Schultz,” Sen. Sanders interrupted after 21 seconds. “I don’t mean to cut you off. We have time limits here and you have… I’m not cutting you off.”

“It’s your moniker constantly,” Schultz said. “It’s unfair.”

Schultz returned as interim CEO of Starbucks in the spring, when Kevin Johnson retired. Laxman Narasimhan became CEO earlier this month.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

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