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“I think we’re getting way premature,” he said when CNN reporter Poppy Harlow asked the question during a town hall on Tuesday.
Schultz, 65, resigned as Starbucks CEO in 2017 – many speculated at the time that he was eyeing a presidential candidacy – although he remains chair emeritus. He has an estimated fortune of $3.5 billion, according to Forbes.
But the billionaire wouldn’t commit to selling his shares in the case of a presidential run or victory.
“I think the best way to say that is I will do nothing whatsoever to have any conflict of interest between my investments overall or my interest in the company that I love, because I will put the role and responsibility and the accountability for result first if I run for president and am fortunate enough to win,” he said.
When asked whether he’d be willing to sell his shares, Schultz, who served as the chief executive of the Seattle-based coffee company for a consecutive 23 years, sidestepped the question.
“I don’t think that’s the question,” he said. “I think there’s multiple ways to do this. There’s multiple ways to do this, to set up a blind trust, multiple things, to remove any conflict of interest.”
A blind trust is essentially when a person holding public office transfers the administration of private business interests to an independent trust in order to avoid liability on potential conflicts of interest. That public person would then no longer know how the money is being handled or invested.
It’s not unheard of for the wealthy to shift their money into blind trusts to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
Illinois Gov. and billionaire J.B. Pritzker at the end of January said he would place some of his sprawling fortune into a blind trust in order to separate his political duties from his wealth, according to the Chicago Tribune. Pritzker -- the country’s richest governor -- said he appointed Chicago-based Northern Trust Co. to act as an independent trustee and make all investment decisions about his personal assets, the Tribune report.
Likewise, while serving as governor of Florida, now-Sen. Rick Scott created a blind trust to shield himself from potential conflict charges -- although it was later revealed to be in name only, according to The New York Times. Scott made his fortune as a health care executive and investor. (Now, as a senator, Scott said he will report his assets to the public in an annual financial disclosure form that’s required of all members of Congress, according to the Tampa Bay Times).