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WBA appoints Gourlay, Barra to drive operations

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Gourlay_Barra_WBA co-COOs

Before becoming co-COOs, Alex Gourlay and Ornella Barra had been executive vice presidents at WBA.

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Alex Gourlay and Ornella Barra have been named co-chief operating officers of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (WBA).

Gourlay had been president of Walgreens, and Barra president and chief executive of global wholesale and international retail. Both had also been executive vice presidents of WBA.

In his new role, Gourlay will oversee Walgreens and Boots. Besides her current responsibilities, Barra will supervise global brands, human resources and other business services. As a result, Ken Murphy, who has become executive vice president of WBA and chief commercial officer and president of global brands, and Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, executive vice president and global chief human resources officer, will report to Barra.

Simon Roberts, executive vice president of WBA and president of Boots, will leave the company in July to pursue new opportunities. Elizabeth Fagan was appointed senior vice president and managing director of Boots. She had been senior vice president and managing director of international retail.

“This is the right structure at the right time,” said WBA executive chairman Jim Skinner. “The changes will allow us to further enhance operating performance, while developing our company for the longer term.”

Skinner congratulated Gourlay and Barra on their extended responsibilities, saying, “We are very fortunate to have these two world-class corporate executives working together in a senior management team that is very well positioned to guide our businesses across the world through the changing landscape of health care.”

Stefano Pessina, WBA’s executive vice chairman and chief executive officer, commented: “Alex and Ornella will be instrumental in driving the operations of our company in the next phase of its evolution now that our businesses have come successfully together after 18 months of integration. With the two co-chief operating officers overseeing the day-to-day activities of the company and the continued support of George Fairweather (executive vice president and global chief financial officer), Marco Pagni (executive vice president, global chief administrative officer and general counsel) and the other leaders, I will be able to further focus on driving the growth strategy and development of Walgreens Boots ­Alliance.”

Pessina added, “I would like to warmly thank Simon for his outstanding contribution and for the key role he played at Boots during the past 13 years of his career. We wish him the very best for the future. I also want to congratulate Elizabeth on her new position, where I am sure she will make a strong ­contribution.”

With its pending acquisition of Rite Aid Corp., WBA is in a period of transition. The $17.2 billion deal, which is expected to close in the second half of the year, would join the nation’s second-largest drug chain by store count with the third-largest, creating a pharmacy retailer with more than 12,800 stores across the country.

The acquisition is about expanding consumer choice, convenience and care nationwide and making quality care more affordable and accessible in the communities served by Walgreens, Duane Reade and Rite Aid, said Richard Ashworth, Walgreens’ president of pharmacy and retail operations. “With Rite Aid expanding our reach to U.S. consumers, Walgreens will be even better able to deliver high-quality retail and wholesale products and services and support to customers, patients, payers and health care partners across the country.”

WBA’s focus in the U.S. has been to ensure that it operates as efficiently as possible, Pessina said. “Alongside this, we must look closely at our retail offering: Our goal is to ensure we are offering the best and most relevant shopping environment and product range to our customers, differentiating our stores, and offering our customers the service and value that they want.”

While completion of the Rite Aid transaction would reshape the retail pharmacy landscape in the U.S., Pessina has indicated that WBA should not be seen exclusively as a domestic business.

“We cannot afford to be parochial — nor would we ever choose to be,” he remarked last spring at the company’s inaugural analyst day. “The size and scope of our business means that if we are professional in our approach and effective in our delivery, we will almost inevitably be one of the businesses that helps shape the future of health care pharmacy at retail on a global basis.”


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