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Thiel: Why Howard Schultz Should Not Run For Public Office

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Kris Brannon, who is known as "Sonics Guy" for his efforts to bring an NBA basketball team back to Seattle, holds a sign that reads "Trust Schultz?" as he greets attendees arriving for Starbucks Corp.'s annual shareholders meeting in Seattle in 2015.

With news this week that Howard Schultz plans to step down as chairman of Starbucks, speculation is swirling about whether he’ll run for political office - maybe even President. But KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel told KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick it’s a bad idea, based on his track record as an NBA owner.

'Not Going To Be Forgotten'

Thiel expressed his opinion against Schultz running for political office after word that Schultz plans to step down as Starbucks chairman later this month.

"I think it comes from what he did when he owned the Sonics," Thiel said.

"Howard bought the team in 2001 from Barry Ackerley for $200 million and he sold it in 2006 for $350 million to folks I call prairie pirates - led by Clay Bennett from Oklahoma City, where the Sonics are now the Thunder."

"This was viewed by sports fans as a complete rip-off that upset them not only about Howard Schultz and Clay Bennett but the NBA and city politics. It is not going to be forgotten."

"It's 10 years old now and it's like the wound is still fresh in the minds of many people."

"This is what a lot of people remember Howard for: how he conducted himself as what he called the 'civic steward' of a pro sports franchise."

"He really ended up betraying everything that he said about his tenure and took the money and let the Sonics run to Oklahoma City."

Actions Didn't Equal Words

"That really showed up in the fight over remodeling KeyArena," Thiel continued.

"The city invested $80 million in municpal bonds in 1995 to remodel the old coliseum from the World's Fair days in 1962 into KeyArena."

"David Stern, the (NBA) commissioner at the time, said it was a state-of-the-art remodel."

"But by the time Howard bought the team in 2001, he'd already complained about it being inadequate."

"The building didn't get old in six years, it became financially obsolete because of the spiraling NBA salaries and they had to endure a strike in 1999 to gain control. It was the NBA's fault."

"And Howard Schultz, I think, by the end, agreed to pay only $18 million of a potential remodel. That really irked a whole lot of people in this town."

$3.50 Gift Cards

Thiel said there was criticism for how Schultz ran the day-to-day operations of the Sonics, pointing to an article written by a former employee for Deadspin that said he gave $3.50 Starbucks gift cards.

"I realize that that is a really small thing when you consider 'What's Howard's view on how to get us out of Syria? Or healthcare. Or how do we reduce the federal debt? How do we fund the Department of Defense?'"

"That kind of cheap disingenousness that was shown in the (gift) cards and with the arena is something I don't want to see in leadership anymore."

"I want somebody who's transparent. I want somebody who's honest, somebody who's sincere. And somebody who's got a generosity of spirit that is worth more than $3.50."

"Howard Schultz is not qualified for in any way, shape or form for public office, in my view. Howard, stay away from that. Enjoy your retirement."

Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Sports With Art Thiel with iTunes orGoogle Play now. You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.