Billionaire Howard Schultz is looking more and more like a contender to take on President Trump in 2020 as the Starbucks executive chairman who announced his end-of-month departure from the board gave some very Presidential sounding answers to CNBC Squawk Box host Andrew Ross Sorkin on a wide range of topics, from Trump's trade policy towards China, to US border policy.
While Schultz was certain to hedge against speculation, saying "There's a lot of things I can do as a private citizen other than run for the presidency of the United States ... Let's just see what happens," one can only conclude after watching the interview that if there ever was a prelude to a bid for the White House, this interview is it.
“Going back to China and trade… this rhetoric about all these trade wars that are now being engaged with China, with Mexico, with Canada… this might sound like a trite line, but it’s important," Schultz said. "We should not be in the business of building walls, we should be in the business of building bridges.”
Schultz suggested that instead of worrying about China, the U.S. needs to focus on the national debt.
“We are in a trade battle here that I do not understand. Our problem is not China. Our problem is here in the US we have $21 trillion in debt.”
Schultz also said Trump's border policy is "inhumane," and said he is concerned "for the country and the standing in the word, the lack of dignity, lack of respect coming from the administration. I think we can do much better."
On the economy, Schultz thinks it's "very wrong to use the stock market as a proxy for the U.S. economy," saying "I don't believe that the stock market is going to continue to grow at the level it has between now and 2020. You're going to see a sea-change."
In short, Schultz predicted a stock market correction over the next 18 months - as we don't imagine "sea change" means equity growth will simply moderate.
You also have systemic problems in the country, the likes of which we have not had in a long time. You got a major mental health crisis, you got a major homeless crisis, you got an opiates crisis, you have racial divide in this country. And you also have 45% of American households that don't have four-hundred dollars (41%, but close), and you also have 67% of the workforce in America among men that are not in it.
Schultz will be stepping down as Starbucks executive chairman effective June 26, and will be replaced by Myron "Mike" Ullman - former chairman of JCPenny.
Schultz vs. Trump - battle of the wallet bulge
When it comes to net worth, Bloomberg calculates that the 64-year-old Schultz has a $3.2 billion fortune to mount a bid for public office - around $400 million more than the 71-year-old Trump, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
His fortune includes a 2.6 percent stake in Starbucks valued at $2 billion; stock options worth $150 million; and a $1.1 billion investment portfolio seeded by dividends and previous stock sales. Schultz’s net worth, closely tied to fluctuations in Starbucks’ stock, has climbed $61 million so far this year.
Trump's net worth, on the other hand, has slid to $2.8 billion over the past year - a decline of $100 million.
The drop, the second in two years, is based on figures compiled by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index from lenders, property records, annual reports, market data and a May 16 financial disclosure. It occurred as Trump began his second year in the White House and his name was stripped from buildings in Toronto, Manhattan and Panama.
The most recent estimate, down from $2.9 billion last June, is the lowest since Bloomberg began tracking Trump’s wealth in 2015. The biggest declines, totaling $220 million, came from adjacent buildings in midtown Manhattan: 6 E. 57th St., which previously housed a Niketown store, and Trump Tower, where lower occupancy resulted in less income. -Bloomberg
Then again, one wonders how much Schultz's net worth would drop were he to run, and win, especially if that "sea-change" stock market correction comes sooner than later.