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Starbucks’ focus turns international

After growing rapidly in the U.S. for most of its history, Starbucks has turned its attention to international growth – and Monday added an executive to help lead that expansion.

Michelle Gass, who had been in charge of the Seattle’s Best Coffee chain and brand for Starbucks, will now run its stores in Europe and the Middle East.

The executives who had led Starbucks’ U.S. and international businesses are shifting as a result. Cliff Burrows, who was in charge of the U.S., adds Canada and Central and South America to his portfolio. John Culver, who had run the entire international operation, will now lead the Asian-Pacific region, including Starbucks’ much-anticipated first store in India next year and its debut in Vietnam in 2013.

In a telephone interview, Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz said the changes were made to “take three of our top people and put them against our biggest opportunity,” which is international growth, including the sale of coffee and drinks in grocery and convenience stores all over the world.

“We’re doubling down on our commitment and belief that the international business is going to be much more significant in the future,” Schultz said.

Starbucks has almost 17,000 cafes; about 6,000 of them are outside the U.S.

The grocery sales are part of another Starbucks business that will now include Seattle’s Best Coffee, which Gass had led for two years.

Before that, she served in a two-person “Office of the CEO” when Schultz initially returned to that job in 2008.

Gass has grown Seattle’s Best from a chain with 550 cafes, mostly in Borders bookstores, to a business that sells coffee at almost 50,000 locations, including Burger King and Subway.

She will be based in Amsterdam.


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