For two decades, Howard Schultz enjoyed uninterrupted success building Starbucks Corp. into a hip chain of coffee shops that richly rewarded shareholders.
But with profits off and the stock sinking, Mr. Schultz is cast in an unfamiliar new role: the person who must re-energize a company that has lost its edge. That has unleashed an intensity in him that is rattling the feel-good Starbucks culture.
"We are going to bring this company back!" Mr. Schultz practically shouted at a meeting with managers in New York in April. The idea of skeptics that the battered stock won't recover is "total bull-" he said, his voice rising.
Mr. Schultz owns 5% of Starbucks's shares, and he just got cause for even more urgency about a turnaround: Activist investor Nelson Peltz, a man known for making waves, disclosed last week that his Trian Fund Management has taken a position in Starbucks. Mr. Peltz, who has pressured other food companies to focus on their core business, wouldn't elaborate on his intentions in making the Starbucks investment. Mr. Schultz declined to discuss it.