On Wednesday this week Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, told investors that if they had a problem with the company’s decision to publicly support marriage equality they could sell their stock and go elsewhere.
The exchange took place at Starbucks’ annual meeting when a shareholder named Tom Strobar described Starbucks’ first-quarter performance as disappointing, and suggested the results were due, in part, to a boycott by the National Organization for Marriage.
“In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earrings — shall we say politely — were a bit disappointing,” Strobhar said.
This prompted Schultz to reply that the company’s stance on marriage equality had nothing to do with earnings but were about “respecting diversity.” He went on to state, “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.” Schultz’s statement was met by loud applause from those in attendance.
For 2012, Starbucks delivered a 14 percent increase in net revenues over the prior year, reaching a record $13.3 billion. The company returned approximately $1.1 billion to shareholders through share repurchases and dividend payments.
In February, Starbucks joined nearly 300 other companies in filing a brief calling on theU.S. Supreme Court to overturn a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits and recognition to same-sex couples.
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