Paragon Intel

Published on April 17, 2024

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Starbucks (SBUX) Short: 52.4% Alpha Based on CEO Ability

On January 30, 2023, ManagementTrack recommended a short position on Starbucks (SBUX), focusing on the appointment of Laxman Narasimhan as CEO. Our analysis, grounded in extensive investigative journalism and peer interviews, predicted that Narasimhan’s prior experience and management style would not align well with Starbucks’ needs, particularly during its critical phase of strategic reinvention.

ManagementTrack’s Investigative Process

  1. Conducted In-Depth Interviews: ManagementTrack engaged with former colleagues and peers of Laxman Narasimhan, gathering insights into his leadership style, operational strengths, and weaknesses.
  2. Assessed Cultural Fit: Our team evaluated Narasimhan’s fit within Starbucks’ unique corporate culture, considering his previous roles and the impact on his new position.
  3. Analyzed Historical Performance: We reviewed Narasimhan’s track record at Reckitt Benckiser and PepsiCo, focusing on his strategic decisions, operational execution, and their outcomes.

Why ManagementTrack Believed They Would Fail

  1. Mismatched Leadership Style: Narasimhan’s history suggested a focus on strategy over operations, a potential misalignment with Starbucks’ immediate need for operational excellence in its reinvention phase.
  2. Potential for Cultural Disruption: His previous tenure indicated challenges in building cohesive teams and maintaining morale, critical factors for Starbucks’ success.
  3. Questionable Operational Execution: Given Starbucks’ ambitious growth and transformation goals, Narasimhan’s operational weaknesses were seen as a significant risk to achieving these objectives.

Outcome and Performance

The short position on Starbucks generated a 42.0% alpha, validating ManagementTrack’s analysis. The company faced challenges that aligned closely with our concerns about Narasimhan’s leadership, particularly around operational execution and cultural integration.

Key Takeaways

  1. Leadership Fit is Critical: The importance of a CEO’s leadership style and cultural fit within a company cannot be overstated, especially during periods of significant change.
  2. Operational Execution Matters: For companies like Starbucks, facing ambitious reinvention, operational prowess in leadership is crucial.
  3. Investigative Analysis Adds Value: ManagementTrack’s process of combining investigative journalism with fundamental analysis provides unique insights into executive appointments and their potential impact.


ManagementTrack’s recommendation to short Starbucks based on the appointment of Laxman Narasimhan as CEO was proven correct, highlighting the importance of leadership analysis in investment decisions. Our investigative process and focus on executive ability continue to offer valuable perspectives for hedge fund clients.

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