Starbucks veteran Michelle Gass leaving for Kohl's

Wed May 22, 2013 4:48pm EDT

Michelle Gass speaks to shareholders during Starbucks' Annual Meeting of Shareholders in Seattle, Washington March 21, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Sorbo

Michelle Gass speaks to shareholders during Starbucks' Annual Meeting of Shareholders in Seattle, Washington March 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Sorbo

(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) executive Michelle Gass, who was instrumental in the world's biggest coffee chain's post-recession U.S. turnaround, is leaving after more than 16 years to become chief customer officer at retailer Kohl's Corp (KSS.N).

Gass, known for having led many big initiatives at Starbucks, including the development of Frappuccino blended drinks, will join Kohl's in the newly created position on June 17, the low-price department store said on Wednesday.

Gass had just been named to a new position at Starbucks, where she was set to work directly with Chairman and Chief Executive Howard Schultz. Most recently, she was president for Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa.

"The news should be viewed as disappointing to investors as Gass was highly regarded, having helped create the overall strategic blueprint for the brand," said Barclays analyst Jeffrey Bernstein.

He added that Gass has been a director at Ann Inc (ANN.N), the parent of women's clothing chain Ann Taylor, since November 2008.

"We value her many contributions over the years," Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson said, adding that Wednesday was Gass' last day at the Seattle-based company.

At Kohl's, Gass will oversee areas such as marketing and e-commerce, and will report directly to Chairman and CEO Kevin Mansell.

Before she joined Starbucks, Gass worked in marketing and new product development with Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N).

Starbucks shares closed down 0.2 percent at $64.14, while Kohl's ended down 0.5 percent at $52.08.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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