Former Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz is putting together an elite public relations team as he prepares to release a civic-minded new book and considers running for president in 2020.
A key player in Schultz's growing team is Steve Schmidt, a former vice chairman at public relations powerhouse Edelman who managed Republican Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008.
Schultz is one of the many names widely considered as a possible candidate to take on Trump in two years. In an interview with CNBC earlier this year, Schultz left the door open to a run. With experience mainly in the business world but not the political arena, Schultz would likely need experienced political operators on his side if he were to dive into presidential politics. Schmidt fits that bill.
Schmidt got to know Schultz through Edelman's partnership with Starbucks. The two have kept in touch since Schultz left Starbucks earlier this year, people familiar with the relationship have said. Schmidt has continued to do private consulting work for Schultz on a variety of issues, including guiding him ahead of his upcoming book tour.
"Mr. Schultz has known Mr. Schmidt for a number of years through his work at Edelman," Schultz's spokeswoman told CNBC. "Mr. Schultz values Steve's insights and they have stayed in touch," she added.
Schmidt is a political analyst for MSNBC. He is a strident critic of President Donald Trump, and he left the Republican Party earlier this year.
Schmidt did not return requests for comment.
In October, Schultz hired Cheryl Cook, a longtime executive vice president at Edelman, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter. She will be representing Schultz up until and throughout his book tour, which is expected to start in February in New York City, these people said. Cook worked at the PR firm for more than a decade and got to know Schultz directly when Starbucks was one of her clients.