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Yale's Jeff Sonnenfeld on Schultz: Trump has broken a ‘huge barrier’ for CEOs as presidential candidates

  • Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz is stepping down, sparking speculation about his next step.
  • Yale management guru Jeff Sonnenfeld is one of many who think Schultz will run for president in 2020.
  • "There's a huge barrier that Donald Trump tore down" for corporate executives to run for office, Sonnenfeld says.

CEOs and corporate executives can now run for president without prior political experience because of Donald Trump, Yale business management guru Jeff Sonnenfeld told CNBC.

"There's a huge barrier that Donald Trump tore down," Sonnenfeld said, who serves as a senior associate dean at the Yale School of Management. "And that pathway is now open for the Mark Cubans and the Bob Igers, who I believe by the way probably was seriously considering [running for president] before getting into this whole Fox acquisition effort."

On Monday, Howard Schultz, Starbucks' executive chairman who formerly had two stints as CEO, announced in an employee memo that he would be stepping down, effective June 26. He will become chairman emeritus.

Schultz, who previously said he was not interested in running for president, said he would leave the option open for future political endeavors.

"I'll be thinking about a range of options for myself, from philanthropy to public service, but I'm a long way from knowing what the future holds," Schultz said in the memo.

On Monday he told Andrew Ross Sorkin of CNBC and The New York Times that he has been considering "for some time" ways in which he could give back to the country.

"One of the things I want to do in my next chapter is to figure out if there is a role I can play in giving back," Schultz said. "I'm not exactly sure what that means yet."

While the exact details are unclear, Sonnenfeld said it likely involves the 2020 presidential election. "I would say he's running," Sonnenfeld said.

Sonnefeld, who said he's known Schultz for many years, pointed out that Schultz worked at Starbucks for more than 30 years.

"Howard's done," Sonnenfeld said. "He wants to do something different."