Lupin 2023

Ryan takes a final bow at CVS annual meeting

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. — The CVS Caremark Corp. annual shareholders meeting that was held here on May 11 was notable primarily because it was Tom Ryan’s final appearance at a CVS Caremark annual shareholders meeting.

As such, it was punctuated by the nostalgia and sentiment appropriate for the end of a career and an era that was among the most stunningly productive that chain drug retailing has seen.

Annual meeting attendees, some 60 in all, viewed a 10-minute video about the man and his accomplishments during a 17-year career as chief executive officer that saw the transformation of a $6 billion regional drug chain into a Fortune Top 20 company with annual sales approaching $100 billion.

Ryan himself was appropriately humble as he exited the CVS Caremark stage for the last time, praising his coworkers, thanking CVS founder Stanley Goldstein for the opportunity and marveling at his good fortune in having spent his business career helping Americans live healthier lives, and doing so at a drug chain he believes is without equal in its pursuit of that mission.

Less noted but no less impressive was the performance of Larry Merlo, Ryan’s successor as CVS Caremark’s CEO. Telling the assembled shareholders that the world’s largest pharmacy health care provider is clearly at the top of its game and perfectly positioned for a future that will be punctuated by dramatic change, Merlo noted that “our combined business model provides greater access, convenience and choice to consumers and is helping patients improve their health and lower their overall health care costs.”

Indeed, if the CVS Caremark meeting had one overarching theme, it was about the potential power of a health care company that effectively combines so many component parts.

Said Merlo: “The fact is, no one else can match our combination of assets — a leading PBM, one of the largest retail pharmacy chains, a leading specialty pharmacy, a growing Medicare Part D business, and the largest and fastest-growing network of retail health clinics.” It would be difficult to dispute the potential power of that ­lineup.

Merlo told his audience that CVS Caremark has a clear strategy for building future success, then he proceeded to outline that strategy, one that aims to sharpen the company’s results by cutting costs and reestablishing momentum at the PBM, continuing to get superior performance from its CVS/pharmacy while adding or relocating some 285 of the drug stores in the current fiscal year, and expanding health care services at its MinuteClinic immediate-care facilities while adding some 100 MinuteClinics annually to its current number of 560.

Among the other themes Merlo touched on were the need to increase patient adherence to prescription drug regimens and the resultant benefit to CVS and other pharmacy retailers in doing so, and the opportunities inherent in a rapidly aging U.S. population, the reality of health care reform and the projected growth of generic drugs.

Finally, Ryan returned to the podium to announce that longtime board member David Dorman, a veteran business executive who has led Sprint, Pacific Bell, AT&T and Motorola at different times in his career, would succeed him as chairman, in a nonexecutive ­capacity.

But the day, and indeed the last several weeks at CVS Caremark and in the chain drug community, clearly and rightfully belonged to Ryan, who, effective immediately, ended what is arguably the most successful and impressive career any chain drug executive has yet known.


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