Howard Schultz wants people to call billionaires 'people of means'

Don’t call billionaire Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks executive, a billionaire: He prefers the phrase “people of means.”

Schultz, whose fortune is estimated to be close to $3.3 billion, said during a book event hosted by New York Times reporter and CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin that the moniker “billionaire” has become a catchphrase.

“I would rephrase that and say that ‘people of means’ have been able to leverage their wealth and their interest in ways that are unfair, and I think that speaks to the inequality but it also speaks to the special interests that are paid for people of wealth and corporations who are looking for influence,” he said, when asked whether he thought billionaires have too much power in the U.S.

Schultz is currently mulling a bid as an independent in the 2020 presidential race and has drawn fierce backlash from some Democrats, who worry the 65-year-old would draw votes from the Democratic nominee because of his liberal social positions, thus aiding Republican President Donald Trump’s re-election effort.

And unlike some of his potential progressive counterparts -- including potential presidential rivals Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., -- Schultz has been a vocal critic of a wealth tax. Schultz, who stepped down as CEO of Starbucks in 2017, would likely be subject to an “ultra-millionaire tax,” an idea proposed by Warren that would create a 2 percent wealth tax on people with more than $50 million assets and a 3 percent tax on people with more than $1 billion.

However, the former chief executive angled himself as independent of outside money and special interests during the Monday night interview.


“If I should run for president, I am not in bed with any party,” he said. “I am not in bed with any special interest. All I’m trying to do is one thing: Walk in the shoes of the American people.”