Bloomberg Law
Oct. 19, 2022, 8:37 PM

Ex-Starbucks Top Lawyer In Line for Board Seat at Vacasa Inc.

Brian Baxter
Brian Baxter

Former Starbucks Corp. general counsel Rachel Gonzalez is eyeing a possible board position for vacation rental company Vacasa Inc.

Vacasa named her a board observer and intends to seek stockholder approval to add a director and elect Gonzalez at its annual meeting next year, the Portland, Ore.-based company said in a statement Wednesday.

Working as a potential board member is an “ideal way” to serve professional and personal interests, as Gonzalez has three children—a fifth-grader and two in high school, she said in an interview.

Starbucks gave its former top lawyer a large severance package and moved Gonzalez to an advisory position ahead of her departure from the coffee chain in May. The move came after Starbucks temporarily brought back Howard Schultz, its founder and chairman emeritus, to be interim chief executive.

Gonzalez declined to discuss her departure from Starbucks. She received more than $5.3 million in total compensation from the company in 2021 and still owns roughly $9.5 million in Starbucks stock, according to Bloomberg data.

Rachel Gonzalez

She said she has no immediate plans to return to law department leadership.

“I’m really trying to focus my time on responsible organizations that are going to drive positive and transformative growth agendas,” Gonzalez said. “I want to do that work with people I trust and respect.”

Last year Gonzalez joined the board of Electronic Arts Inc., which awarded her more than $233,400 in total compensation during fiscal 2022 after she was recommended to the video game maker by a third-party search firm, according to a recent proxy statement. Bloomberg data shows she owns about $260,000 in Electronic Arts stock.

Starbucks hired Gonzalez in 2018 from Sabre Corp., a travel technology company where she spent four years as legal chief and which hired a new top lawyer of its own last month from the Walt Disney Co.

“Her public company leadership experience across industries from travel technology to retail service closely aligns with our focus,” said Robert Greyber, who became Vacasa’s chief executive in August, in a statement.

Private equity firm Silver Lake was an investor in Vacasa, which was advised by Latham & Watkins last year on a merger with a special purpose acquisition company linked to buyout firm TPG Inc. that took it public.

TPG and Silver Lake also once owned Sabre. Gonzalez said those business connections helped in lining up her new role at Vacasa.

Starbucks, meanwhile, announced last month its hire of a new top executive in Laxman Narasimhan as the Seattle-based company seeks to contain a unionization wave in its workforce. Narasimhan will officially succeed Schultz in April 2023.

Diversity Debate

Gonzalez is a member of the advisory council for the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Poder25 Initiative, which seeks to increase the number of Latino legal chiefs working at Fortune 500 companies to 20 by 2025.

The current tally for that effort stands at 16, said Gonzalez, who laughed when asked whether her colleagues have pushed her to return to the legal C-suite to get closer to Poder25’s goal.

The last several years have resulted in significant progress for corporate diversity efforts, particularly in the boardroom, she said.

“Businesses that are broadly in touch with their diverse customer bases, consumers, and multiple stakeholders will have that mix of talent to position them well to deliver their services, products, and manage their risk appropriately,” Gonzalez said.

Starbucks, Gonzalez’s former employer, two years ago began linking executive compensation to diversity targets. The coffee retailer, which has moved to diversify its own boardroom, is one of several US publicly traded companies that assesses its outside counsel on meeting certain inclusion guidelines.

Some of those programs have come under scrutiny following a decision last year by the Coca-Cola Co. to walk back a policy implemented by its former legal chief Bradley Gayton—who after leaving the company got a board role of his own—that would have held back 30% of fees paid to non-compliant law firms.

Starbucks is one of several publicly traded companies facing shareholder pressure to protect the rights of labor activists, whose activities involve organizing a workforce with significant minority representation.

Gonzalez, without commenting on specific programs or initiatives, said “cognitive diversity” and “diversity of experiences” will create the “best chance of developing capabilities that will bring us into the future and optimize business outcomes.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at; John Hughes at

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