Starbucks Turnaround: Impact On Schultz’s Wealth

Starbucks (SBUX) stock, and the underlying company, are six years into a remarkable turnaround that began roughly at the time that Howard Schultz returned as CEO in January 2008.

SBUX Chart

SBUX data by YCharts

Starbucks shares touched down at $7 and change later that year, a point in time those who’d paid in the high-$30s during the mid-2000s would likely prefer to forget. But for one person that stock dip proved particularly profitable: Howard Schultz.

During fiscal 2013, for instance, Schultz exercised options covering about 2 million Starbucks shares that were granted November 17, 2008, realizing a gain of $90 million. The exercise price was $8.64, so he didn’t bottom-tick the stock with those options, but he came damned close.

Guy deserves a little credit – and a bonus -- for the amazing turnaround, you say? Indeed, he does. But as we’ve often argued here, a CEO who already has common stock valued at $100 million or more already has plenty of motivation to get up and go to work in the morning. Those, like Larry Ellison of Oracle (ORCL), who load fresh options on top of an immense net worth produced by their company’s stock are merely diluting their fellow shareholders because they can. If the board offered no additional equity and, indeed, no salary, I’d argue these guys would still come to work because they’d want to protect, and expand, the fortune tied up in company shares.

In Schultz’s case, he owned outright about 18 million shares when he returned as CEO. The roughly $50-a-share gain he’s enjoyed on those shares alone added $900 million to his net worth. Reward enough?

Apparently not. The 2008 options are part of a long-term torrent of additional equity awarded to Schultz. Also in fiscal 2013, for instance, some long-deferred stock awards were finally handed to Schultz, and their value was about $183 million. He also exercised some long-in-the-tooth 2004 options during fiscal 2013, for a gain of $38 million.

And as of the issuance of the latest proxy statement, last month, Schultz was sitting on about 4 million options (more than half of them vested) exercisable at prices ranging from $8.64 to $49.74.

Schultz has been a regular and significant seller of Starbucks shares, as reported by Morningstar (MORN). (Full disclosure: Morningstar is an investor in YCharts.)

As of the most recent proxy, Starbucks had about 71 million options available to award to employees, and it says here that Schultz will get his fair share and then some. By being a little more conservative with options, and continuing stock buybacks, Starbucks could begin to actually shrink its shares outstanding, which would be rewarding for its owners. We’ll see.

Jeff Bailey, The Editor of YCharts, is a former reporter, editor and columnist at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. He can be reached at Read the RIABiz profile of YCharts. You can also request a demonstration of YCharts Platinum.



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