Top Starbucks executive Troy Alstead taking 'extended unpaid leave'

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Starbucks says its chief operating officer, Troy Alstead, is taking an “extended unpaid leave” after 23 years with the company.

The Seattle-based coffee chain said it would provide more details on its transition plan during its quarterly earnings call slated for Jan. 22. Alstead’s last day will be March 1, the company said.

Alstead, 51, was serving as chief financial officer early last year when Starbucks named him to the newly created position of chief operating officer. He was charged with overseeing day-to-day operations so that CEO Howard Schultz could spend more time developing the company’s digital projects, such as mobile payments.

At the time, Schultz said in a conference call that his office was about 15 yards from Alstead’s, and that the two could finish each other sentences after working together for so long.

In after-hours trading, Starbucks shares slipped $1.30 to $81.19.

Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson did not say whether Alstead would be returning. He said it was a “very personal decision” by Alstead to spend time with his family. He said Alstead had been discussing it with Schultz for some time.

Olson added that Alstead had planned on a similar move in 2008, but that Schultz persuaded him to stay as the company worked to turn around its business. In a statement, Schultz noted that Alstead “played an invaluable role in our growth as an enterprise.”

Alstead’s upcoming departure comes as Starbucks seeks to expand beyond its popular lattes and Frappuccinos. To continue driving sales growth at its cafes, the company has introduced new and revamped food offerings — such as warmed up sandwiches and salad boxes — intended to attract customers in the slower afternoon hours.

In the evenings, Starbucks plans to make beer and wine available in up to 25 per cent of its 12,000 U.S. stores over the next five years. That “evenings” program, which includes small plates such as chicken skewers after 4 p.m., is already in select stores around the country.

Alstead joined Starbucks as a financial analyst in 1992, when the company was privately held and had about 100 stores. He held a variety of management roles over the years, and was part of the team that developed the company’s international business.


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