Some surprising news out of Seattle: Troy Alstead, a 23-year veteran of Starbucks, its chief operating officer by title, and Howard Schultz’s right-hand executive, is taking an unpaid leave of absence starting March. The company itself didn’t say when the sabbatical would end, but it’s thought to be a year long. While insiders don’t seem sure what to make of the news, speculation is that it’s maybe not good for Schultz, who’s reportedly been grooming Alstead for the top job.
The option (a “Coffee Break,” officially) is available to any employee who has at least ten years with the company, and the Seattle Times says the only explanation given was that Alstead intends to spend “the next year” giving his wife and kids his “dedicated time and attention.” While the company warned against reading anything between the lines, Schultz’s own statement, which seems downright elegiac, may not have helped: “Looking back on the 23 years we spent together side-by-side as Starbucks colleagues, I can recall so many memorable moments and accomplishments in which Troy can take pride in a job well done,” he wrote. “Troy’s humanity and humility will be missed and we wish him the best.”