Top Stories

Howard Schultz Rumors

The powerful businessman, who turned Starbucks into an international coffee behemoth and was a darling of the Seattle business community, flailed under a new kind of public scrutiny from fans and media, many of these people said. “His approach was very much a feeling of entitlement,” said Nick Licata, a Seattle city council member at the time. “ ‘Arrogance’ is probably the right word.”
In August 2001, the new owner met with two employees who had just finished a new promotional video of the SuperSonics players, inspired by the opening scenes from Guy Ritchie’s London gangster thriller, “Snatch .” Schultz was irate as employees rolled the tape. Yelling, Schultz said it made the players look like “thugs” and demanded the staff remake the video, according to a former Sonics employee in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of professional retribution. (This employee recounted the story in 2001 to a second employee, who confirmed in an interview that they had heard it, though not Schultz’s precise words.)
Schultz also changed the fans’ experience but in ways that some employees criticized. Four employees said Schultz wanted the 1950s ballad “Mack the Knife” played after every game, win or lose, replacing the hip-hop that had been played. (A spokeswoman for Schultz said the team’s marketing department experimented with many songs in the arena during his ownership.) “It was one of those things that was sent down from the higher-ups: ‘Hey, this is what Howard wants,’ with an eye roll. And we’d say, ‘Okay, we have to play this song now,’ ” one employee in the Sonics’ entertainment division recalled. “He was completely out of touch, and everybody knew it.”