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Walgreens Boots Alliance announced on Friday that its CEO, Rosalind Brewer, has left the company in what was described as a "mutual decision."

According to the company, Ginger Graham, a member of its board of directors, has been named interim CEO as a search for a replacement to Brewer is conducted.

The New York Times writes that the change at the top reflects a shift Walgreens' priorities away from its traditional businesses of retail and pharmacy and toward the health care services segment.

Brewer is a tried-and-true retailer.  Before joining Walgreens in March 2021, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, she was COO and group president at Starbucks, president/CEO of Walmart-owned Sam's Club, and president of Walmart East.

In a note toe employees, Brewer wrote, in part, that "perhaps what I’m most proud of is our work to develop a strategic pivot towards the growth of WBA into health care. Through three strategic acquisitions to build new infrastructure and expand and accelerate our health care offerings, we have developed significant new revenue streams for the company. I leave WBA confident that it is on the track to be a leading consumer-centric healthcare company, serving thousands of communities across the country, especially those that need access to healthcare the most."

The Times quotes Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, as saying that the company, "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."

The Times also writes that "as Walgreens leans more into the health care business, it faces several hurdles, industry experts said. In a note to clients, Deutsche Bank’s analysts said the challenges included managing tricky pharmacy reimbursements, transforming its business model to focus on primary care and dealing with opioid liability issues."

Graham, the interim CEO, previously served as CEO of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, group chairman at Guidant, and started her career at Eli Lilly, the Times reports.

KC's View:

Brewer's availability on the open market is a big deal - she's smart, talented, and would be a great get for a major retailer looking to make a statement about retailing leadership.

I'm not sure that Brewer was playing a great hand at Walgreens - I remain unpersuaded that the likes of Walgreens and CVS will be able, in the long run, to establish real expertise in health care.