Walgreens Boots Alliance is set to become the only S&P 500 company to be run by a black woman after the drugstore group appointed Roz Brewer of Starbucks as chief executive.
Ms Brewer, the coffee chain’s 58-year-old COO, to replace Italian-born billionaire Stefano Pessina, 79, who becomes executive chairman of the company he has transformed into a global powerhouse in pharmacy and healthcare.
She must take the lead of WBA, which employs more than 450,000 people and has more than 21,000 stores, will have a mandate in March to revive the fortunes of the American company, whose shares have lost 38% in the past five years.
The listed group’s brick-and-mortar stores in New York, which include US chains Walgreens and Duane Reade and UK Boots, have come under pressure and the coronavirus crisis has added to the difficulties. Shoppers made fewer visits to stores in the pandemicand health services have postponed routine treatment, reducing the demand for prescriptions.
This month WBA made a deal to sell its distribution business, Alliance Healthcare, for approximately $ 6.5 billion to AmerisourceBergen, the US drug wholesaler.
Wall Street hailed Ms Brewer’s appointment, pushing WBA shares up 8.4 percent after hours.
The WBA released a statement announcing the appointment after Starbucks said earlier Tuesday that Ms Brewer was leaving to join a publicly traded company. Starbucks said the company’s identity will be released in the coming days and the Wall Street Journal has subsequently identified WBA.
Ms Brewer, who is an Amazon board member, is expected to step down from her role with the tech group when she takes up her post at WBA.
Ms Brewer’s departure from Starbucks is the latest change in the management ranks of the world’s largest coffeehouse chain, which this month said Patrick Grismer is standing on the sidelines as CFO.
Starbucks said its responsibilities would be “divided among other members of the existing management team.”
Ms Brewer’s appointment to one of the most prestigious positions in business in the United States comes as American companies are under pressure to place more women and minorities in leadership and board positions . Starbucks itself has chosen Mellody Hobson as its next president, who in March will become just the second black woman to head the board of directors of an S & P500 company.
Ms Brewer, who is ranked number 27 out of Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, has been the COO of Starbucks for more than three years, where WBA said she had “been instrumental in helping l ‘company to accelerate its growth strategy, expand its global reach and drive value.’
Previously, she spent more than a decade at Walmart, culminating in a five-year stint as the head of Sam’s Club, the retailer’s warehouse club division. Prior to that, the chemistry graduate worked for the Kimberly-Clark consumer products group for 22 years, starting as a scientist.
Ms Brewer said in a statement that WBA is a “world-class and trusted organization whose purpose I deeply admire”. “The healthcare industry is constantly changing and I am thrilled to be working alongside the entire WBA team,” she said.
Mr Pessina takes on a less practical role at WBA after a long career in the industry, during which he led a series of growing buyouts and mergers. He took charge of the group in 2015, shortly after the alliance between Alliance Boots and Walgreens.
He said in a statement, “The board has conducted extensive research to identify an exceptional leader who will build on WBA’s track record of success and take advantage of the company’s many growth opportunities in many markets. We are delighted to have found this person in Roz. “