Roz Brewer takes over as CEO of Walgreens as the company seeks a boss with deep healthcare experience

Rosalind “Roz” Brewer

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Walgreens boot ring said on Friday that Roz Brewer stepped down as chief executive of the company as it deepens its strategy to become a healthcare company rather than a drugstore.

She also left the company’s board effective Thursday. The decision was mutual, according to a press release.

Walgreens shares fell about 7% on Friday.

Ginger Graham, lead independent director and healthcare industry veteran, will serve as interim boss while the company searches for a successor. Graham is a healthcare industry veteran.

Brewer has agreed to continue advising the company until it selects a permanent CEO. She did not immediately return requests for comment.

“Our Board and leadership team will intensify our focus on creating value for our customers and shareholders as we move forward in the search for a successor with deep healthcare experience to lead in today’s dynamic environment,” said Stefano Pessina, executive chairman of Walgreens.

Brewer and Walgreens were in a tight spot ahead of Friday’s announcement. Walgreens shares are down more than 32% this year at the close of Thursday, as the company has struggled with a slump in demand for Covid tests and vaccines. It has also seen retail sales of items like toothpaste and shampoo drop consistently as consumers turn to competitors like Walmart It is amazon for everyday needs, which can be ordered online and delivered within a few days.

In June, the company reported fiscal third-quarter earnings that missed Wall Street’s expectations for the first time since July 2020. It also lowered its full-year earnings forecast.

However, Covid cases are on the rise again and could prove to be a boon for pharmacy sales. The next Covid boosters are scheduled to start rolling out in mid-September.

For consumers who might not be interested in another Covid booster, they can still turn to Walgreens for their typical over-the-counter cold and flu products. During the first fiscal quarter ended Nov. 30, the start of cold and flu season boosted demand for cough and cold medicine and helped Walgreens offset losses from slowing demand for vaccines.

A Retail Veteran in the Healthcare World

A Walmart veteran and starbucksBrewer had led Walgreens since March 2021. During his brief tenure, which included a sizable period of the Covid pandemic, the company pursued a transition that would position Walgreens more as a healthcare company than a drugstore chain.

Walgreens recently acquired Summit Health and primary care provider VillageMD, which has opened hundreds of clinics, including some adjacent to Walgreens stores.

It also entered into an agreement with CareCentrix, which coordinates home care for patients after they are discharged from the hospital, and Shields Health Solutions, a specialty pharmaceutical company.

Competitor CVS Health has also been leaning on a health strategy. In February, it announced plans to acquire Oak Street Health for about $9.5 billion in cash to add primary care to its portfolio of healthcare offerings. About that, Ritual of Help has focused on expanding its pharmaceutical presence and is now preparing to file for bankruptcy.

However, as Walgreens deepened its aspirations to become a healthcare provider and moved away from its identity as a drugstore chain, Brewer’s skill set was not as aligned with the company’s goals. Prior to her tenure at Walgreens, she served as chief operating officer and group president at Starbucks, and previously ran Walmart’s Sam’s Club as CEO. She spent about a decade at Walmart in a series of executive roles.

“The retail side of the business, where Ms. Brewer has much more experience, is simply not an area Walgreens wants to pursue as a major growth opportunity,” said GlobalData Retail Analyst and Managing Director Neil Saunders, in an emailed statement.

“All of this must be a disappointment to Ms. Brewer, but it also means that a different kind of experience is needed to lead the business. It is notable that interim CEO Ginger Graham has a much deeper background in healthcare and pharmaceutical industries,” he added.

Brewer’s last foray into the health world ended in the early 2000s when she was an executive at Kimberly-Clark, a global health and hygiene products company, where she worked for more than two decades.

“I am confident that the WBA is on the right track to be a leading consumer-centric healthcare company, serving thousands of communities across the country, especially those most in need of access to healthcare,” Brewer said in the announcement. from friday.

Pessina thanked Brewer for his high-risk work during the Covid pandemic. She joined the company right around the time the Covid vaccines were being made available to the general public, and the early days of the launch were often marked by tension, chaos and mayhem.

“It has advanced our customer service capabilities while supporting a culture of community and team member involvement in difficult times,” said Pessina.

Brewer led the team that created Walgreens’ vaccine scheduling system and developed a plan to increase vaccine equity, the company said.

Despite Brewer’s many accomplishments, Pessina called Graham “the ideal person” to serve as the company’s interim CEO, given his leadership experience in various segments of the healthcare industry.

Graham has been on the Walgreens board since 2010. Last October, she was named a lead independent director. She began her career at Eli Lilly and has served on the board of several healthcare companies. She was also CEO of Amylin Pharmaceuticals.

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