Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the annual shareholder meeting March 22, 2017 in Seattle.

Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is stepping down from the coffee chain’s board, the company said Wednesday.

“I look forward to helping this next generation of leaders lead Starbucks into the future as a customer, supporter and advocate in my role as chairman emeritus,” Schultz said in a statement.

The company said the change was part of a planned transition, but Schultz, 70, gave no reason for his exit.

His third term as Starbucks CEO ended in March when Laxman Narasimhan took over the role. Schultz was back in the top job for 11 months. During this time, he developed a strategy to modernize the company’s cafes, improve relationships with its baristas and drive further sales growth. He also led the launch of Starbucks Oleato, a line of olive oil-infused beverages.

But some of Schultz’s actions created new enemies. He took a more aggressive approach to barista unionization than Kevin Johnson, who took over as CEO after Schultz’s second term. Starbucks Workers United and allies like Senator Bernie Sanders made billionaire Schultz the face of Starbucks’ anti-union stance. The highlight was that shortly after he resigned as CEO, Schultz was questioned before a Senate committee about the company’s alleged union busting.

Before his departure, Schultz told CNBC that he had no intention of taking over as CEO again.

Schultz resigned from Starbucks’ board back in June 2018 to prepare for a possible presidential run before deciding against a bid. He had already handed over the CEO position to Johnson in 2017.

If Schultz leaves the board, Wei Zhang will take his place. Zhang served as a senior advisor to Alibaba and president of Alibaba Pictures Group.

Her experience with the Chinese e-commerce giant could help Starbucks get its Chinese business back on track. China is Starbucks’ second-largest market, and some trends there, such as mobile ordering, have led to changes in the company’s U.S. business.

Zhang also previously held positions at News Corp China, CNBC China, Bain and General Electric. She is currently a member of the board of directors of Ralph Lauren.

She is the third woman to serve on Starbucks’ nine-member board, which includes Chairwoman Mellody Hobson and Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford.

Disclosure: CNBC China is a subsidiary of CNBC.

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