Walgreens CEO steps down

Rosalind "Roz" Brewer — a former Starbucks and Sam's Club executive — has stepped down as CEO of Walgreens Boot Alliance after taking on the position in March 2021, the retail chain said Sept. 1. 

In a statement, Walgreens said Ms. Brewer and the board of directors "mutually agreed" she would step down from the helm and as a board member, effective Aug. 31. Ms. Brewer became CEO at the start of the nation's COVID-19 vaccine rollout and led a team that put technology in place for the vaccine scheduling system. 

Ginger Graham, the lead independent director of Walgreens, will serve as interim CEO while the company searches for a permanent CEO with "deep healthcare experience." Ms. Graham is the former CEO of Amylin pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, Ms. Brewer will continue to advise Walgreens throughout the search process. 

Her departure comes as Walgreens pursues a strategy to position itself more as a healthcare company rather than a pharmacy chain. 

"The retail side of the business, where Ms. Brewer has much more experience, is simply not an area that Walgreens wants to pursue as a major growth opportunity," retail analyst and GlobalData managing director Neil Saunders told CNBC. Ms. Brewer is the former COO and group president at Starbucks. Before that, she was president and CEO of Sam's Club. 

"On behalf of the entire board, I would like to thank Roz for her contributions to WBA," Walgreens' executive chairman, Stefano Pessina, said in a statement. "She furthered our consumer-facing capabilities while supporting the culture of community and team-member engagement in difficult times. We appreciate her hard work and commitment to the company during this period of unprecedented change." 

The company's stock has fallen over the past two years alongside a drop in COVID-19 vaccine demand and retail sales. Over the same time period, the company has invested heavily in primary care and home health. In January, VillageMD, which is majority owned by Walgreens, completed its acquisition of SummitHealth, adding more than 2,800 providers to its ranks. The deal was worth $8.9 billion. Walgreens also completed its acquisition of home healthcare company CareCentrix in March. And earlier this summer, the company said it is seeking a CFO with healthcare experience. 

"I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead Walgreens Boots Alliance and to work alongside such talented and dedicated colleagues," Ms. Brewer said in a company statement. "I am confident that WBA is on track to be a leading consumer-centric healthcare company, serving thousands of communities across the country, especially those that need access to healthcare the most."

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