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.
On this day, Lautch’s left forearm and hand are bandaged, the consequence of a recent spill off his bike in a race, his second bad fall this year. Despite the accident, he somehow managed to finish the event, called RAMROD, for Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day. The 152-mile race is not for the faint-hearted—contestants cycle 10,000 feet up Mount Rainier, one of the deadliest volcanoes in the U.S.