Howard Schultz is one of the richest people on the planet — but don't ever call him a billionaire to his face.

The former Starbucks CEO, who has an estimated net worth of US$3.4 billion ($4.9b), made some surprising comments during a recent Q and A on wealth with journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin.

When he was asked whether billionaires had "too much power in American public life", the discussion took a bizarre turn, with Shultz taking issue with the common and factual term "billionaire".

"The moniker 'billionaire' now has become the catchphrase," the 65-year-old said in response.

Advertisement

"I would rephrase that and say that people of means have been able to leverage their wealth and their interest in ways that are unfair.

"And I think that speaks to the inequality but it also directly speaks to the special interests that are paid for people of wealth and corporations who are looking for influence and they have such unbelievable influence on the politicians who are steeped in the ideology of both parties."

His comments were all the more surprising given Shultz recently revealed he was considering running for president in 2020 as an independent candidate, going on to claim he wouldn't be "in bed" with any political party or group.

" … once again I go back to this: If I should run for president, I am not in bed with any party. I am not in bed with any special interest. All I'm trying to do is one thing: walk in the shoes of the American people," he continued.

Naturally, it didn't take long for the public to notice the irony of an incredibly wealthy business mogul using their staggering fortune to run for office without any prior experience in politics.

His statement has gone viral on Twitter, with social media users quick to share a laugh at the billionaire's expense.

Schultz's potential run for president has proved to be conservative, with many arguing they don't want to see another rich, inexperienced businessman running the US.

Meanwhile, Democrats claim he could steal possible votes, which could lead to President Donald Trump's re-election.

Advertisement

In fact, during the Q&A, a heckler shouted: "Don't help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire..!" CBSNews reported.

Schultz was CEO of Starbucks from 1986 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2017, and served as the coffee giant's executive chair from 2017 to 2018.

The father-of-two famously grew up poor in public housing with a single mum and two siblings before earning his fortune in the business world.