When Richard Lautch joined Starbucks as its treasurer in 1999, the Seattle-based company had fewer than 2,500 stores in four countries—the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom. Today, its global empire comprises more than 17,000 stores in 55 countries. You can order a double mocha latte venti in such faraway places as Oman and Qatar. All this is the stuff of legend, but the company's extraordinary growth still startles Lautch, a youthful 46-year-old Brit whose whippet build is thanks to years as a competitive ultra-marathon cyclist. "It has been an amazing ride," he says, sitting in a conference room at Starbucks' headquarters building, a former Sears catalog warehouse built in 1912, in Seattle's trendy Sodo area.

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