Walgreens is transitioning from pharmacy and retail to concentrate more on health care services, although the results have been mixed. The company's shares took a further hit on Friday, falling to nearly a 14-year low. The company indicated that its profit for this year would be "at or near the bottom" of its predictions.
"Having previously expanded through a series of pharmacy acquisitions, the group is now aiming to consolidate and direct its efforts towards the U.S. health care sector," stated Neil Saunders, GlobalData's managing director, in an email. "The advisability of this shift is questionable, as health care is not Ms. Brewer's area of expertise."
Prior to her role at Walgreens, Ms. Brewer served as Starbucks' chief operating officer and was formerly the CEO of Sam’s Club, a Walmart subsidiary.
In addition to initiating more in-store doctors’ offices at Walgreens, she managed the complex distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine at pharmacies and the implementation of pandemic safety measures within stores.
In a statement, Ms. Brewer expressed pride in her achievements and stated that the company was "on the path to becoming a leading consumer-focused health care company."
Ms. Brewer's departure was announced just over a month after the company's CFO, James Kehoe, left to take up a finance chief position at tech firm FIS.
As Walgreens shifts more towards the health care industry, it faces several obstacles, according to industry experts. Deutsche Bank analysts noted in a client memo that these challenges include handling complex pharmacy reimbursements, altering its business model to prioritize primary care, and addressing opioid liability issues.
"The exit of the two key executives could not have come at a worse time," wrote the Deutsche Bank analysts. "We cannot remember a time in our coverage history when we have seen both the CEO and the CFO leave a large-cap company in such a short period without other company issues."
Walgreens announced that a search for a permanent leader is in progress.
Stefano Pessina, the company's executive chairman, stated in a release that Ms. Graham was the "perfect candidate to serve as interim CEO." Ms. Graham previously held the position of CEO at Amylin Pharmaceuticals and was the chairman of Guidant. She began her career at Eli Lilly.
It is uncommon for a female CEO to be succeeded by another woman. This year, gender diversity has declined at the highest levels of retail companies. As of July, 13 out of the 86 retail companies in the Fortune 1000 had a female CEO, a slight decrease from the previous year, according to executive recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles.
According to Catalyst data, there are 50 female CEOs among the Fortune 500. Catalyst collaborates with hundreds of companies to promote women's career advancement.
With Ms. Brewer's departure, Thasunda Duckett at TIAA, the investment firm, is the only Black woman currently leading a Fortune 500 company.
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