Roz Brewer, one of only two black female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, resigned as CEO of the Walgreens Boots Alliance on Friday. She will be replaced on an interim basis by longtime board member and pharmaceutical industry executive Ginger Graham. That means two of Walgreens’ top jobs will be filled by executives with interim titles. Former chief financial officer James Kehoe left Walgreens in August and was replaced by global finance chief Manmohan Mahajan until the company finds a permanent replacement.
Graham has served on the Board since 2010 and was appointed the Board’s Lead Independent Director in October 2022, a role considered critical in managing the relationship between the Board, its Chairman and its stakeholders. Stefano Pessina will continue as executive chairman of Walgreens.
Graham has all the makings of a corporate American leader: a Harvard MBA (’86), multiple CEO roles, and a prestigious board seat. She is also a healthcare veteran with extensive experience in the notoriously complex industry, from developing new drugs at a pharmaceutical company to helming a global medical technology manufacturer to leading a healthcare consulting firm.
In a statement announcing the leadership change, Pessina said, “Ginger is an ideal candidate to serve as interim CEO given her leadership experience across multiple areas of the healthcare industry, her in-depth knowledge of the WBA and her strong operational skills.”
Walgreens declined to comment beyond a published press release.
Graham’s healthcare experience comes at a critical time for Walgreens, which is trying to expand beyond its core pharmaceutical business. Under Brewer’s leadership, the company made several multibillion-dollar acquisitions, expanding its business into urgent care, primary care and specialty pharmaceuticals. Yet Wall Street has been lukewarm about the expansion move, so much so that on an investor call in January, executives had to reassure investors that M&A would take a backseat in the near future as the company focused on bringing new The acquired business is integrated into Walgreens. .
Brewer’s departure, while not entirely unexpected, was sudden because she was the architect of Walgreens’ healthcare expansion strategy. “With the growth of Walgreens’ health care unit gaining traction … it makes sense to lay off staff and find a new leadership team with a broader background in health care delivery,” Evercore analysts told Reuters.
Most of Brewer’s experience has been in retail, with her previous positions at Starbucks and Walmart. “Health care is not Ms. Brewer’s strong suit,” a managing director at consulting firm GlobalData told the media. New York Times. The company’s financial performance has also been lackluster, with its shares hitting an 11-year low in May.
Graham said she will seek to stabilize the company as it begins its search for a permanent chief executive. “My focus will be on our people and operations, working together to drive shareholder value creation and ensuring a smooth transition as we identify our future CEO,” she said in a statement.
Given that Kehoe left the company for fintech giant FIS Global weeks before Brewer did, she may also have to find a permanent chief financial officer.
Graham’s most recent experience, prior to his new interim role, was CEO of healthcare consulting firm Two Trees Consulting from 2007 to 2016. Before nearly a decade as a consultant, she worked in drug development as CEO of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, a company focused on diabetes drugs, from 2003 to 2007. One of the most notable FDA-approved drugs under Graham’s watch was the blood sugar control drug Byetta. It became so popular that Amylin had to ask doctors not to start patients on the drug until a new manufacturing facility was built because it couldn’t keep up with demand, New York Times reported at the time.
Prior to developing and marketing diabetes medicines, Graham was Chairman of Guidant Group, one of the leading manufacturers of cardiac medical devices such as pacemakers and stents. Her broad responsibilities included overseeing the company’s operations in the U.S., Europe, Japan and emerging markets, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Guidant was formed after Eli Lilly spun off the Advanced Cardiovascular Systems (ACS) segment it then led. Graham got his first job after graduating from Eli Lilly Business School. Graham was one of the executives who took the lead in taking ACS public in 1994, under the new name Guidant.
In the early 2000s, she published several articles in the journal Science. Harvard Business Review. One, published in 2002, is titled “If You Want Honesty, Break Some Rules,” and it appears to be a precursor to today’s popular leadership style of empathy and transparency. When leaders focus on “top-down managerial control,” she writes, they can end up creating a “culture of speculation, blame-shifting, and self-protective behavior.” She went on to encourage executives to “break some of the rules of traditional management” to build a better corporate culture.During this time, Guidant was appointed as one of the wealth One of “America’s Best Companies to Work For” Industry Week “World’s 100 Best Managed Companies”. Another equally prescient (though perhaps more dubious) article extols the importance of lobbying.
In 2008, Graham ended up taking a faculty position at Harvard Business School. There, she taught courses at the Arthur Locke Center for Entrepreneurship.
Although Graham takes over as interim CEO, he will still have to deal with woes in the stock price. Walgreens shares have fallen 36% since the start of the year, including a 6.1% drop following Friday’s announcement of the CEO’s resignation.