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WBA hires new chief for Boots retail chain

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DEERFIELD, Ill. — Sebastian James is joining Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) as senior vice president and as president and managing director of Boots, the company’s international pharmacy, health and beauty chain based in the United Kingdom.

Plans call for James, currently group chief executive at European electronics and telecom retailer and service provider Dixons Carphone plc, to join WBA this summer and start in his new role on Sept. 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, WBA said late Friday. He will report to Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer of WBA.

Sebastian James_Walgreens Boots Alliance_Dixons

Sebastian James

“I am very excited to be joining Walgreens Boots Alliance at this time in its history and to have been offered the privilege of leading Boots, surely one of the U.K.’s most iconic, venerable and trusted brands,” James said in a statement. “At a time of unprecedented change in both the retail and health care markets, to build on the fantastic work that the team have done over the last few years, and to be a part of the next chapter for this great company, is an extraordinary opportunity. I look forward to getting to know my new colleagues at both Boots and WBA in the next few months.”

James has been group chief executive of Dixons, which employs over 42,000 people in nine countries, since 2014. Prior to that, he served as chief executive of Dixon Retail since 2012. Before coming to Dixons, James was chief executive officer of Synergy Insurance Services and Silverscreen Holdings.

With the hiring of James, WBA has named Elizabeth Fagan, who has led Boots since June 2016, to the newly created role of nonexecutive chairman of Boots. She is slated to assume that post starting in the new fiscal year.

“We are delighted that Sebastian will join our company at an equally exciting and challenging time for the retail environment in the U.K. and for the future development of Boots, a brand synonymous with pharmacy and care.We are sure his deep retail expertise will drive significant progress and innovation at Boots for the benefit all our stakeholders,” Gourlay stated. “I also want to warmly thank Elizabeth, who has been leading the business very successfully for the last 18 months or so and, in her over 11 years with the company, has made an invaluable contribution. She will continue to do so in her next role.”

One of the largest global players in pharmacy-led health and wellness retailing, WBA has more than 13,200 stores in 11 countries and one of the largest international pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution networks, with over 390 distribution centers delivering to 230,000-plus pharmacies, doctors, health centers and hospitals each year in about 20 countries. WBA also is one of the world’s largest purchasers of prescription drugs and other health and wellness products.


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