Starbucks taps Mellody Hobson as board chair amid broader push for more diverse boards

Key Points
  • Mellody Hobson, the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, will serve as Starbucks' next board chair after the retirement of Myron Ullman.
  • Her appointment comes as the Nasdaq pushes for its companies to foster more diversity on their corporate boards.
  • Starbucks has long exceeded the new board diversity guidelines proposed by Nasdaq.

In this article

Mellody Hobson and George Lucas attend the 2017 LACMA Art + Film Gala Honoring Mark Bradford and George Lucas presented by Gucci at LACMA on November 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
JB Lacroix | WireImage | Getty Images

Starbucks said Wednesday that Mellody Hobson will serve as the next non-executive chair of its board.

In March, Hobson will replace Myron Ullman, the former CEO of J.C. Penney. Ullman, who is retiring, has been on Starbucks' board since 2003 and served as chairman since 2018.

Hobson, who is also the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, has been on Starbucks' board for 15 years. She currently serves as a director for JPMorgan Chase and has previously been on the boards of Estee Lauder and DreamWorks Animation.

The change comes as the Nasdaq asks the Securities and Exchange Commission to approve changes that push for greater diversity on the boards of publicly traded companies listed on its exchange. Starbucks is traded on the Nasdaq, but it has long exceeded the guidelines that the exchange is proposing. If approved, the Nasdaq would require most companies to have at least one woman and at least one person who identifies as an underrepresented minority or part of the LGBTQ community on the board.

At a recent appearance at The Economic Club of New York, Hobson talked about recent developments from Corporate America to address racism and racial inequality.

"I've been saying we need less lip service, and we need more elbow grease, and so I think this time will be different because we live in a society that is holding us accountable ... I think there is no way to escape actually having real results now: people are watching," she said.

Starbucks announced the move ahead of its investor day, which is expected to be held on Wednesday afternoon. Shares of the company, which has a market value of $119 billion, have risen 15% so far this year, nearing an all-time high.

How companies can diversify boardrooms: When little progress is made, people institute mandates
How companies can diversify boardrooms: When little progress is made, people institute mandates