Howard Schultz did not exactly found Starbucks Corp. (SBUX). He started at the company when it had four stores. However, based on the wild success of Starbucks since then, the distinction does not matter. He steps down as chief executive officer at a time when the coffee store company is considered to be among the most successful in the United States. There are other public company CEOs who should follow his lead, but do so because their companies are failures.
First among these is Eddie Lampert of Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD). He started the retail conglomerate by putting Sears and Kmart together under one company umbrella. Neither chain has flourished. As a matter of fact, both are in deep trouble. Stores are old, same-store sales are plunging and Wall Street wonders if Sear Holdings can survive.
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Twitter Inc. (TWTR) was founded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, Noah Glass and Evan Williams. Dorsey is the CEO of the once promising social network, which is now in tatters. Rumors that the company might be for sale appeared to be a way out. Twitter's user base growth has almost stalled. It cannot find a formula to attract advertisers or e-commerce. It has been flanked by other social media, like Snapchat. And, to make matters worse, Dorsey is also CEO of Square Inc. (SQ). Twitter is at least a full-time job, one that Dorsey has done poorly.
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Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (CMG) was founded by Steve Ellis, the current co-CEO, 23 years ago. After years of rapid sales it has had a series of food poisoning outbreaks. Management has been faulted for a culture in which food safety was not a priority and running a company that had inadequate food safety rules and regulations.
Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFM) was founded by John Mackey in 1980. It grew rapidly as a healthy food alternative to large grocery chains. The company has been attacked for exaggerating the healthy nature of its produce and whether any of it has contaminants, as well as troubled labor relations, misleading comments about its relationships with suppliers and, worst of all, overcharging customers. Ironically Mackey will become sole CEO as Walter Rob, longtime co-CEO, leaves the company
Schultz leaves his job as a great success. Several other CEO-founders should leave because they are failures.