Howard Schultz, Starbucks' (SBUX) executive chairman, has been fortunate enough to never have had to deal with an activist investor given the stellar return of the coffee king's stock. And that's something Schultz is totally fine with. 

"But when I see Carl Icahn, I look the other way," Schultz said on Wednesday at a conference held by The Economic Club of New York.

Billionaire investor Icahn gained notoriety in the 1980s and 1990s when he launched activist campaigns against giant corporations like Apple (AAPL) , Mylan (MYL)  and Family Dollar (FDO) .

READ MORE: Starbucks' Howard Schultz Hints He's Too Old To Run a Coffee Business Packed With Millennials

Schultz said "there are bad actors" [companies] who need to be pushed to evolve, but that most company executives, touting himself, "are the good guys." He said activist investors aren't always in the right, denouncing Pershing Square Capital Management's Bill Ackman's controversial campaign against J.C. Penney  (JCP) , under which the billionaire investor forced himself onto the board of directors in 2011 and overhauled the retailer bottom up.

Activist investor Carl Icahn.
Activist investor Carl Icahn.

Some companies currently up against activist investors include Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) from Marcato Capital Management, Whole Foods Market (WFM) from Jana Partners and Etsy (ETSY) from TPG Group Holdings and Dragoneer Investment Group.

Wednesday's conference was moderated by former Macy's (M) CEO Terry Lundgren, who was succeeded by Jeff Gennette in April.

Schultz was the CEO of Starbucks from 1987 to 2000 and again from 2008 until his departure, also in April. He was replaced by Kevin Johnson, the company's former president and COO.

Jim Cramer and the AAP team hold a position in Starbucks and Apple for their Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells SBUX or AAPL? Learn more now.

READ MORE: This Is What Starbucks' Howard Schultz Would Like All 2017 College Graduates to Do

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