Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to step down

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New York (CNN Money) — Howard Schultz, the visionary leader of Starbucks, will be stepping down next year as CEO of the iconic coffee giant.

Schultz's surprise decision to step aside as the leader of Starbucks sent the stock sinking 3% in after-hours trading on Thursday.

Starbucks said Schultz isn't going away completely. Effective April 3, he will be appointed executive chairman, where he will focus on innovation, design and developing Starbucks locations.

Schultz is being replaced by former Microsoft senior exec Kevin Johnson, who will become the new CEO.

In a statement, Schultz said the move "ideally positions Starbucks to continue profitably growing our core business around the world into the future."

Schultz famously returned to Starbucks in 2008 to help guide the coffee giant through the recession and restore growth at the company.

This story was first published on CNN.com, "Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to step down"