Starbucks chief Howard Schultz greets fans, heckler in Issaquah

April 8, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Howard Schultz (left), Starbucks CEO, meets a young reader of 'Onward,' Matthew Snodgrass, 7, and his mother Mary, of Renton, as Schultz signs books Friday at Costco. By Greg Farrar

NEW — 1:45 p.m. April 8, 2011

Starbucks chief Howard Schultz and a disgruntled Seattle Sonics fan came face to face in Issaquah on Friday afternoon, as the coffee company president and CEO — and former team owner — inscribed books at Costco.

The heckler cursed at Schultz and shouted, “You betrayed the whole city of Seattle!” before Costco employees and a police officer whisked the man out of the store during the otherwise-quiet event. Schultz smiled and signed “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul” — a bestselling account of Starbucks’ turnaround — for other patrons.

Schultz, a former Seattle Sonics owner, sold the team to Oklahoma City investors in 2006. Feelings about the decision remain raw among some Seattle-area basketball fans.

Costco employees and off-duty Issaquah police officers steered people in Sonics regalia away from the signing table. Overall, about 200 people turned out for the early afternoon appearance.

“Sonicsgate” producer Adam Brown showed up in a Sonics ball cap and filmed the book signing on a cellphone camera, before security intervened.

“They saw my hat, and I walked to the back of the line, and then after about 10 seconds, they came and kicked me out,” Brown said. “They wouldn’t tell me anything about why, and I said, ‘Is it because of my clothes? Is it because I’m wearing Sonics stuff?’ and they were just like, ‘Howard Schultz has asked that you leave the premises.'”

“Sonicsgate” is a 2009 documentary film about the NBA franchise’s relocation to Oklahoma City and reincarnation as the Oklahoma City Thunder. Brown produced the film alongside director Jason Reid.

“I have no beef with Costco, and I have no beef with the police officers or anything, but it’s just pretty funny that Howard would single me out for being the only guy wearing a Sonics hat and have me booted,” Brown added.

Other people arrived too late to meet Schultz. The initial publicity material for the appearance included a 1 p.m. start time, but signs at the store said noon, and Schultz started inscribing books before noon.

Elise Woodward, a host on KJR-AM Sports Radio, arrived in a green-and-gold Sonics T-shirt just as Shultz departed.

“I just wanted to ask Howard Schultz why he wouldn’t be accountable to the fans?” she said later.

Some attendees turned out meet the man responsible for transforming Starbucks from a small coffee company into a global behemoth.

Starbucks employees Sarah Gallagher and Katie Whitlock arrived early. The company sent special editions of the book to employees — or partners in company lingo. Gallagher and Whitlock met the CEO and chatted for a moment as Schultz inscribed the copies.

Whitlock, a Carnation resident and a barista at a Redmond Town Center shop, prepared a drink for Schultz once, although she did not realize it at the time.

“You know that was Howard Schultz?” coworkers asked.

Schultz joined Starbucks as director of marketing in 1982. In 2000, Schultz stepped down from daily oversight of the company, but returned as CEO eight years later as the company foundered.

“Onward” reached No. 1 on The New York Times’ Best Sellers hardcover nonfiction list for April 17.

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15 Responses to “Starbucks chief Howard Schultz greets fans, heckler in Issaquah”

  1. JLN on April 8th, 2011 2:26 pm

    What a coward. He won’t even allow people in Sonics apparel to be in the building.
    Screw Schultz.

  2. GM on April 8th, 2011 3:11 pm

    @JLN. Ummm, I think Costco didn’t want a scene. This isn’t the street. It’s a private business. You can’t just go yelling at people if you want to here.

  3. bawstonboy on April 8th, 2011 3:47 pm

    Interesting Mr. Schultz chose way out here in the suburban Costco for signing.
    Why not the Costco south of Seattle? — incidentally not far from Starbucks corporate headquarters. He knows why…

  4. Doug B, Issaquah, WA. on April 8th, 2011 4:39 pm

    Only a “homer” thinks Schultz or any other owner owes the fans anything. The Sonics obviously were not drawing fan support except for the 11k that showed up for games. This out of a COUNTY OF 1.5 + MILLION……..
    Like Trump says it ain’t personal…..its business…….

  5. James Finn on April 8th, 2011 4:42 pm

    “WIthout losing it’s soul?” Who is he kidding? He sold the Sonics and sucked the spirit out of fans who had been loyal for 41 years. Now he lacks the soul to even face them? And when did corporations get infused with”souls.” What a coward.

  6. Rich H on April 8th, 2011 5:18 pm

    @Doug B, Howie himself said that ownership of the Sonics was a public trust. Fan support was not the issue. Corporate support was not the issue. Making a quick sale for a big profit to carpetbaggers from Okie, without protecting the public trust and knowing they would be moved, was a betrayal of the City of Seattle. He chose money over principals, and deserves every bit of wrath he gets now and in the future from his “hometown”.

  7. Joshua Bell on April 8th, 2011 7:48 pm

    It wasn’t just about the money he lost. Most teams in the league lose money or come close to it. Howard thought he was going to come in and revolutionize NBA ownership. He got his ego thrashed, his feelings hurt, and couldn’t handle to the ebb and flow of owning a team.

    He also had the chance to sell to existing members of the ownership group that wanted to buy the team, but instead of even entertaining that option, he hired a firm to help him find potential, outside ownership.

  8. Doug B, WA. on April 8th, 2011 9:35 pm

    @Rich, seriously? You actually believe an individual that tells you he is spending his own money to provide entertainment for which he is charging a fee a ‘public trust?” I don’t know what that is…. but I wouldn’t have believed it for a minute.
    As far as the sale, nobody else in town was dumb enough to pour good money into that abyss.
    All 18 people that actually paid to attend the games with their own money voiced their opinion at the store while the rest of the “fans” were corporate sponsors or attending the games on someone elses dollar.
    Howard Schultz is a businessman- nothing more nothing less, certainly not deserving of the petty and cheap shots from people that think they are “owed” something because of another individuals success.

  9. Brett on April 8th, 2011 10:10 pm

    Doug, professional sports is not like any other business. You don’t go into ownership to make money, especially in the NBA, where NO teams make money. It’s about civic pride and providing a communal experience for your region (yes, it’s also about ego and the cache that comes along with owning a pro sports team). His sale had nothing to do with attendance, which was just fine until Clay Bennett suppressed interest by systematically dismantling the franchise. He did it because he was butthurt that the government refused to foot 85% of the bill for a new arena. Then, rather than being a caretaker for the franchise and seeking out local ownership, he decided to sell to the highest possible bidder regardless of his intentions. After the sale he had the temerity to say that selling the franchise to Clay Bennett would provide the best possible chance for the team to stay in Seattle. But you’re right, there’s no reason to be angry with him. I guess I’m just a “homer.”

  10. Brian T. on April 9th, 2011 12:45 am

    Aside from not facing the music on his role in the death of the Sonics, this book clearly needs to be classified as fiction. I am a former partner who watched the soul of my store and the company as a whole sucked right out of us during the recession, but Coward wouldnt know that since he still lives in a world where he romanticizes about things instead of looking at how we operate in the real world.

  11. Sonicsgate Goes To Meet Howard Schultz, Reportedly Leaves With A Police Escort | Latest Updates on April 9th, 2011 11:11 am

    […] Update: Thanks to Brendan Vaughn for pointing this out in the comments. Here’s the rest of the story from the Issaquah Press. […]

  12. Hippie Sonics fan ambushes Howard Schultz at Issaquah Costco « The Sports Pig's Blog on April 12th, 2011 11:47 pm

    […] former NBA owner Howard Schultz got his comeuppance in the Seattle area recently when a blogger/website producer made a cellphone tape of himself […]

  13. Chris on April 21st, 2011 7:44 am

    How ironic is the name of the new Starbuck’s book? Schultz did a sweet flip on OUR freakin basketball team team and sold out all of Seattle’s fans. I will NEVER spend dime 1 in a Starbucks store, period. He should really just hide his face in shame for what he did. Howard Schultz is a classless loser.

  14. Anonymous on May 24th, 2011 5:14 pm

    Whine. Whine. Whine. How is he personally responsible? You want the team so bad, you buy it. He had a vision, it failed, he bailed. I admire his ability to admit defeat, and he has done so much for THE WORLD, and Seattle. Whine. Whine. Whine.

  15. Lance Betz on May 24th, 2011 5:27 pm

    I am wrapping up a large presentation on Starbucks, and the things I’ve learned are amazing. I’ve never understood the Starbucks haters, and now I understand them even less. Boo frikin’ Hoo, you lost the Sonics. People want to whine about how he “sucked the spirit out of fans”. Ooooooooh… So bad, stupid. How about Fair Trade coffee, (84% of total coffee purchases by Starbucks in 2010, goal is 100% by 2015) which guarantees farmers earn a minimum wage, no child or forced labor, etc., etc., etc. Quit your whining, you small minded gladiator fans. (That’s what professional sports is, by the way… Roman gladiators. Not entirely civilized.)

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