SVP exit sparks Starbucks to unite comms, brand units

SEATTLE: Starbucks SVP of global communications Wanda Herndon is retiring from the company, leading to a merger of Starbucks' communications and brand divisions. The move comes as the company continues to enter new markets, including music and movies. Manager of media relations Lara Wyss confirmed Herndon's departure.

SEATTLE: Starbucks SVP of global communications Wanda Herndon is retiring from the company, leading to a merger of Starbucks' communications and brand divisions. The move comes as the company continues to enter new markets, including music and movies. Manager of media relations Lara Wyss confirmed Herndon's departure.

Herndon will support the $6.3 billion coffee giant in an advisory role until August. With her retirement, Starbucks is evolving the global communications group into the new global brand strategy and communications division. The realignment combines the global communications and the creative/brand functions.

Wyss said the merger makes sense in light of Starbucks having more than 10,500 stores, compared with the 600 it had when Herndon joined the company in 1995. Bringing together brand and communications will better support the company's growth strategy, Wyss added.

"Global brand strategy and communications will partner with the US, international, consumer products group, and entertainment business units, as well as all corporate functions, to provide strategic brand and communications direction and support for company initiatives," said president and CEO James Donald in an internal memo. "This new organization will continue to position Starbucks as a highly respected, socially responsible company and an admired global brand."

Overseeing the new function is Anne Saunders, SVP of global brand strategy and communications. Saunders, previously SVP of marketing for North America retail, will report to Donald.

Herndon joined Starbucks in 1995 as VP of communications and public affairs and was promoted to SVP in 1996.

Saunders joined Starbucks in 2001 as VP of Starbucks interactive, became VP of marketing
in 2003, and then became SVP in 2004.

Reporting to Saunders will be VP of creative and brand strategy Jane Shanklin, as well as
VP of global media relations and issues management Audrey Lincoff.

In addition to the massive growth of Starbucks' stores, the company has delved into other markets, including ice cream, coffee-flavored liquor, and exclusive CDs from artists such as Bob Dylan and Ray Charles.

Starbucks has now set its sights on movies. The company announced a deal with Lions Gate Entertainment to promote the forthcoming Akeelah and the Bee.

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