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Rosalind Brewer abruptly stepped down as chief executive of Walgreens Boots Alliance two-and-a-half years after the valuation of the US-listed pharmaceutical group was halved and the conglomerate dropped plans to sell its UK retail chain.
The retailer slashed its earnings forecast in June and said it now expects full-year adjusted earnings to be “at or near the lower end of its previously stated range” of $4 to $4.05 a share.
A statement from the company said the board and Brewer agreed she should leave immediately. She will continue to advise the company on its search for a permanent successor.
Ginger Graham, a board member since 2010 and former CEO of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, will assume the CEO role while the company searches for a “successor with extensive healthcare experience”.
Brewer’s surprise exit comes within five weeks of the WBA announcing that its chief financial officer, James Kehoe, will be leaving.
The WBA was created by the deal of billionaire executive chairman Stefano Pessina, who poached Breuer from Starbucks in January 2021, hailing her as a “fantastic operator,” A five-year pattern of underperformance by the group could be broken.
Brewer, one of the few African-American women running a company at an S&P 500 company, arrives at a time when strong early use of a Covid-19 vaccine is boosting the pharmacy chain. However, she has since grappled with weak vaccine demand, heightened retail competition and volatility in consumer spending, which have also weighed on rival CVS Health.
In its latest earnings announcement in June, she said the group had been hit by a “rapid weakening of the macro environment and a more cautious and value-driven consumer”. Despite strong sales growth, Boots closed 300 UK stores, the latest in a series of closures, while Walgreens closed 150 US stores. The WBA closed the plants after raising its cost-cutting target based on the latest figures.
Last summer, the WBA dropped an attempt to sell Boots, saying unexpected turbulence in credit markets meant “severe interest” from potential bidders had not resulted in offers that reflected its potential value.
Calling it “one of the most difficult notes I’ve ever written in my career,” Brewer said in a LinkedIn message that she was most proud of overseeing “strategic priorities” in health care, three of which The acquisition brings a sizable new revenue stream.
Pessina owns nearly 17 percent of the company, She was praised for leading the company through the pandemic, overseeing the rollout of a vaccine and boosting “consumer-facing capabilities.”
Shares of WBA were down 5 percent at $24.05 by midday Friday. The group’s market value has fallen more than 35% this year to levels last seen during the global financial crisis, falling below $22 billion.