UK Biz. Secretary Tirade at Starbucks

Starbucks in the news: In today’s New York Times business section, an article about a new product from the flailing coffee monolith: instant coffee. It sounds like a prank: the chain that taught Americans to be snobs about coffee is now peddling instant to save its sagging fortunes.

And in the Guardian, Peter Mandelson, the UK Business Secretary, fumes at negative comments about the UK economy by Starbucks chair Howard Schultz. (He “said the UK was in an economic ‘spiral’ with ‘very, very poor’ consumer confidence.”) And he knows downward spirals! Warning: Mandelson’s tirade is quite, em, nautical in its vocabulary. He needs a nice instant decaf grande. Hat-tip to Larry P.

Mandelson launches tirade at Starbucks boss over attack on UK economy

The business secretary, Peter Mandelson, has launched an extraordinary tirade against the head of the Starbucks coffee empire, accusing him of spreading gloom and overly denigrating the state of the British economy.

Angered at remarks by the company’s chairman, Howard Schultz&mbash;who said the UK was in an economic “spiral” with “very, very poor” consumer confidence&mbash;Mandelson accused him of spreading unnecessary misery and speaking out of turn.

Speaking at a diplomatic cocktail reception in New York last night, he said: “Why should I have this guy running down the country? Who the fuck is he? How the hell are they [Starbucks] doing?”

Mandelson’s remarks, made in front of journalists at the official residence of the British consul-general, came amid mounting concern in diplomatic and ministerial circles over hardening US opinion towards Britain’s economic woes.

British officials have been trying to persuade US economists and commentators that alarm over the country’s recession is becoming exaggerated.

Earlier in the day, Schultz singled out Britain as a source of anxiety for Starbucks—which has stores in 49 countries—during an interview with the CNBC television channel.

“The place that concerns us the most is western Europe, and specifically the UK,” he said. “The UK is in a spiral.”

He said it had taken a year to 18 months from the beginning of the credit crunch for consumer confidence to fracture in the US, but the deterioration had happened far more quickly in Europe once financial cracks appeared.

Asked about his biggest concerns, Schultz said: “Unemployment, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, particularly in the UK, and I think consumer confidence, particularly in the UK, is very, very poor.”

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