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WBA names Gourlay, Barra co-COOs

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Walgreens Boots Alliance realigns senior management team

Gourlay_Barra_WBA co-COOs

Alex Gourlay (left) and Ornella Barra (right) “will be instrumental in driving the operations of our company,” CEO Stefano Pessina said.

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Top Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) executives Alex Gourlay and Ornella Barra have been appointed as co-chief operating officers as part of a realignment of the company’s senior management team.

WBA said Thursday that the naming of Gourlay and Barra as co-COOs will help streamline the management of its global operations, which have a presence in more than 25 countries. The company noted that the changes to senior management roles and responsibilities also lay the groundwork for “the next phase of its evolution,” the pending acquisition and integration of Rite Aid Corp.

Gourlay previously held the title of executive vice president of WBA and president of Walgreens. In his new role, he will oversee the Walgreens drug chain in the United States and the Boots drug chain in the United Kingdom.

Barra, formerly executive vice president of WBA and president and chief executive of global wholesale and international retail, will now supervise global brands, human resources and other business services in addition to her current responsibilities

With the move, Ken Murphy, executive vice president of WBA and president of global brands, and Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, executive vice president and global chief human resources officer, will report to Barra. Murphy also adds the title of chief commercial officer.

“Alex and Ornella will be instrumental in driving the operations of our company in the next phase of its evolution, now that our [Walgreens and Alliance Boots] businesses have come successfully together after 18 months of integration,” WBA executive vice chairman and chief executive officer Stefano Pessina said in a statement.

“With the two co-chief operating officers overseeing the day-to-day activities of the company and the continued support of George Fairweather [executive VP and global chief financial officer], Marco Pagni [executive VP, 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.

WBA also announced that Simon Roberts, executive vice president of WBA and president of Boots, will leave the company in July to pursue new opportunities. In addition, Elizabeth Fagan, senior vice president and managing director of international retail, has been appointed as senior vice president and managing director of Boots.

“As we continue to work together to find simpler and more effective ways to manage our company, I believe this is the right structure at the right time,” WBA executive chairman Jim Skinner stated. “The changes announced today will allow us to further enhance operating performance, while developing our company for the longer term.”

WBA executives have reiterated that they expect the Rite Aid transaction to close in the second half of this year, pending Federal Trade Commission approval and other conditions.

Under the deal, announced Oct. 27, WBA agreed to pay more than $9 billion in cash, or $9 per share, for the Camp Hill, Pa.-based drug chain and assume over $7 billion in net debt. Late last month, WBA announced a $6 billion debt offering to help finance the $17.2 billion acquisition.

WBA has indicated that it’s willing to divest up to 1,000 stores to gain regulatory approval for the Rite Aid acquisition but expects divestitures to be less than half that number. The combination of Walgreens and Rite Aid would create the largest U.S. chain drug retailer, with more than 12,700 stores.


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