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Laxman Narasimhan will join Starbucks in October and officially take over as CEO in April. (Photo via Starbucks)

Laxman Narasimhan, who was named the next CEO of Starbucks Thursday afternoon, brings experience in international business and consumer brands, most recently leading the turnaround of Reckitt Benckiser, the British company known for products including Durex condoms and Lysol disinfectant.

He does not have an extensive track record at a major tech company, which makes his appointment a departure from the previous Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, the former Microsoft and Juniper Networks exec who stepped down from his role at the coffee giant in March. His departure brought Howard Schultz back in an interim CEO role, as the company searched for a successor.

Narasimhan, 55, was named the next CEO on Thursday afternoon. He’ll join the company on Oct. 1, after relocating from London to the Seattle area. Starbucks says he will serve as incoming CEO until April 1, 2023, with Schultz remaining in the interim role until then.

“I am humbled to be joining this iconic company at such a pivotal time, as the reinvention and investments in the partner and customer experiences position us to meet the changing demands we face today and set us up for an even stronger future,” Narasimhan said in Starbucks’ news release.

He announced his departure from Reckitt on LinkedIn on Wednesday, writing that he was leaving “a stronger and more resilient business” than it was when he started at the company three years ago.

Narasimhan previously held a number of leadership roles at PepsiCo, including as global chief commercial officer. Prior to that, he was a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, focused on its consumer, retail and technology practices in the U.S., Asia and India and leading the firm’s thinking on the future of retail.

A native of Pune, India, Narasimhan moved to the U.S. to attend the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1991.

Schultz told The New York Times that Starbucks was in search of “a true servant leader that had a deep sense of humility” and that Narasimhan is “a true operator” with “the DNA of an entrepreneur.”

Narasimhan will face a broad set of challenges including a growing union movement inside the company, and ongoing efforts to adjust to the new realities of the post-pandemic retail landscape.

Starbucks said the plan after his arrival is for Narasimhan to be fully immersed in the company, gaining exposure to a brand and culture that includes about 35,000 stores and 383,000 employees globally.

Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz, left, passes the company’s key to incoming CEO Kevin Johnson in 2017. (GeekWire File Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Johnson stepped down after 13 years with Starbucks, including five as CEO. He helped the company adopt more digital technology as Starbucks evolved into a tech company that sells coffee, similar to other retail giants going through digital transformation and investing heavily in the cloud.

“When you love something, you have a deep sense of responsibility to help when called,” Schultz said when he decided to return and lead as interim CEO.

He told The New York Times that Narasimhan “will make us better.”

In May of this year, Starbucks named a new CTO, retail technology veteran Deb Hall Lefevre, to lead its global tech operations. The company is expected to unveil new tech initiatives at its Sept. 13 investor day.

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