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WBA chooses Starbucks exec to succeed Pessina

Rosalind “Roz” Brewer will be the next CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, succeeding Stefano Pessina, who will transition to the role of executive chairman.

Roz Brewer at Starbucks' 2019 annual meeting

Brewer, whose new role is effective March 15 and also will join WBA's board, most recently served as COO of Starbucks. Brewer will bring to WBA extensive experience in multinational retail. She joined Starbucks in 2017 from her role as president and CEO of Sam’s Club, a position she held for five years. During her time at the club retailer, she focused on transforming merchandise and increased the use of digital technology to create a seamless retail experience. 

“WBA is a world-class and trusted organization whose purpose I deeply admire,” Brewer said. “The  healthcare industry is constantly evolving, and I am excited to work alongside the entire WBA team as  we deliver further innovation and positively impact the lives of millions of people around the world  every day. This is especially true today as the company plays a crucial role in combating the COVID-19  pandemic. I step into this role with great optimism for the future of WBA, a shared responsibility to  serve our customers, patients and communities, and a commitment to drive long-term sustainable value for shareholders.” 

Prior to her role at Sam’s Club, Brewer spent six years in executive roles with Walmart — where she became the first Black executive to run a Walmart division — and spent 22 years at Kimberly-Clark.

At the helm of WBA, Brewer will be the only Black woman running a Fortune 500 company. But she joins a growing number of women at the top of the nation's leading drug retailers. Longtime Aetna exec Karen Lynch is set to take the reigns of CVS Health in February and Heyward Donigan has been leading Rite Aid and its RxEvolution since late 2019.

“The board conducted an extensive search to identify an exceptional leader who will build on WBA’s track-record of success and take advantage of the many growth opportunities in many markets across the company. We are excited to have found that person in Roz,”  Pessina said. “She is a distinguished and experienced executive who has led organizations globally through periods of changing consumer behavior by applying innovation that elevates customer experiences — ultimately driving significant and sustainable growth and value creation. Her relentless focus on the customer, talent development, operational rigor and strong expertise in digital and technological transformation are exactly what WBA needs as the company enters its next chapter. I look forward to working with Roz, and to continuing to partner with Jim and the entire Board and management team to take our company forward.”

Stefano Pessina

Pessina has led WBA since July 2015, having been named executive vice chairman and interim CEO in January of that year following the merger of Walgreens and Alliance Boots. He previously led Alliance Boots as executive chairman for seven years from July 2007 to December 2014. 

Under Pessina, WBA has grown its omnichannel retailing capabilities with a particular emphasis on partnerships and an eye for becoming a global pharmacy, health and wellness leader. Among these have been partnerships with Kroger, which brought co-branded stores to the Cincinnati metro area; VillageMD, which is set to bring between 50 and 70 primary care clinics to Walgreens locations by 2025; and Microsoft, which is focused on healthcare delivery models, technology and retail innovation built around Microsoft's cloud and AI platform. 

Most recently, the company made a majority investment in pharmacy technology company iA,  sold off its Alliance Healthcare distribution company to AmerisourceBergen and teased a tech-enabled healthcare start-up that is set to launch later this year. 

In his new role as executive chairman, Pessina will succeed James Skinner, who will remain on the board as a non-executive member to facilitate a smooth leadership transition. 

“Our global position as an accessible healthcare provider in the communities we serve has never been so critical, and I am very confident in the company’s prospects for growth under Roz’s leadership,” Skinner said. “It has been an enormous privilege for me to chair the board through such an extraordinary time for our company, and to work alongside Stefano, with his keen eye for anticipating shifts in the rapidly evolving healthcare market and staying one step ahead of consumers’ needs. He was a driving force behind the merger of Walgreens and Alliance Boots, creating the first global pharmacy-led, health and well-being enterprise and has positioned WBA extremely well for continued growth and expansion. He is transitioning leadership into very capable hands. I am excited to have the opportunity to continue  to serve as a Board member going forward to what I believe will be a period of continued growth and  prosperity for our company.” 

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