Roz Brewer is stepping down from the helm of Walgreens Boots Alliance and its board after two and a half years as the company dives deeper into health care, with both parties stressing that the decision was mutual.
The board has appointed Ginger Graham, current lead independent director, as the company’s interim chief executive officer while it conducts a search for a permanent candidate.
Executive chairman Stefano Pessina said the company will be searching for a successor with “deep health care experience to lead in today’s dynamic environment” as it moves further away from its drugstore origins and into health care.
In a note on her LinkedIn page, which she wrote was one of the most difficult she had ever had to compose, Brewer explained that the decision did not come without great consideration for “what is best for all of you, our shareholders, customers, patients and my family.”
The former chief operating officer of Starbucks and Sam’s Club executive was named CEO in March 2021, just as COVID-19 vaccines were becoming available to the American people. She built and led a team to set up the technology for a vaccine scheduling system, created a safe operating model for store labor, and developed a plan to drive vaccine equity.
But the company has struggled to regain its footing and on Friday said it expects full-year 2023 adjusted earnings per share to be at or near the low end of its previously stated range.
Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, noted that the departure of Brewer comes at a time when Walgreens is in a phase of change.
“The group, which previously grew through various pharmacy acquisitions, is now looking to consolidate and focus its efforts on the U.S. health care sector. While the wisdom of this move is debatable, health care is not Ms. Brewer’s forte,” he said. “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. The potential sale of Boots, which Walgreens would like to dispose of but is waiting for the right conditions, is a further sign of the retreat from retail.”
As for Graham, she has served on the WBA board since 2010, and in October 2022 was named the WBA board lead independent director. From 2003 to 2007, she was president and CEO of Amylin Pharmaceuticals.
She said: “My focus will be on our people and our operations, working together to drive shareholder value creation and ensuring a smooth transition as soon as we identify the next CEO for the future.”