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Originally published May 2, 2013 at 6:06 AM | Page modified May 2, 2013 at 6:22 PM

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Starbucks realigns top executive team

Starbucks gives top executives new assignments and responsibilities.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Starbucks’ executive ranks are shuffling again, this time to bring one of them back to the United States to work directly with CEO Howard Schultz and to divide the chain’s sprawling retail markets among two other top executives.

All three have been considered possible contenders to succeed Schultz, 59, when he eventually retires again. He stepped down as CEO in 2000, but returned eight years later to resuscitate a beleaguered company.

Michelle Gass, who helped design Starbucks’ turnaround plan with Schultz, will return from her role as head of its Europe, Middle East and Africa region, where she has worked to stage another turnaround for the past two years.

She will report to Schultz “leading strategic initiatives in support of Starbucks growth strategy,” according to a memo to employees Wednesday that explained the moves.

The region, called EMEA for short, reported almost flat revenues of $273 million for the second quarter.

Cliff Burrows, who leads Starbucks’ North and South American markets, will add EMEA to his responsibilities. He had been in charge of it before coming to Seattle in 2008.

John Culver, who has been in charge of Starbucks’ aggressive push into Asia, will add responsibility for the company’s fast-growing grocery-store sales.

The executive who had run the grocery business since coming to Starbucks in 2010, Jeff Hansberry, will report to Culver as president in charge of retail operations for the China and Asia Pacific region. He will move to Hong Kong for the job.

In lower-level moves, longtime employee Jinlong Wang will fill a new role as chairman of Starbucks in China, reporting to Culver. Relative newcomer Michael Conway also will report to Culver. overseeing channel development. Kris Engskov, now managing director of the United Kingdom, will lead the EMEA turnaround plan put in place by Gass.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. Twitter @AllisonSeattle.

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