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Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and CEO

By Jenni Carlson Modified: May 5, 2008 at 9:31 am •  Published: May 5, 2008
Role in the fight: Schultz is suing Clay Bennett and Co. saying that the Oklahoma-based ownership group did not act in good faith when trying to secure an arena deal for the Sonics. The former owner wants the July 2006 sale rescinded.

Why he's fighting: Born in Brooklyn in 1953, Schultz grew up in a subsidized public housing project, sharing a bedroom with his brother and sister. On the playground, he was often team captain and ring leader. Schultz even led buddies on excursions to Yankees Stadium, buying bleacher tickets, then helping sneak everyone into expensive seats.

Sports paid Schultz's ticket out of Brooklyn. A football scholarship to Northern Michigan helped him become the first in his family to attend college. A few years after graduation, Schultz joined Starbucks as director of retail operations and marketing.

The rest is caramel macchiato history.

In growing Starbucks into a mega-brand, Schultz helped revitalize a city beat down by a Boeing exodus. Mr. Latte made his most high-dollar civic investment when he led a local group in buying the struggling Sonics in 2001. They promised to save basketball in Seattle but stumbled from the get-go. Schultz traded the popular Gary Payton, feuded with Rashard Lewis, then threatened to move the team when arena plans fell flat.

Schultz sought local buyers, even turning down big money from a San Jose investor, but ultimately sold to Bennett.

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