Rosalind Brewer stepped down as chief executive officer and board member of Walgreens Boots Alliance on Thursday, the drugstore retailer announced on Friday.
The decision was mutual, according to a company press release. The retailer has appointed Ginger Graham, who is lead independent director, as interim CEO. Brewer will stay on as an adviser while the company searches for her permanent replacement.
Brewer arrived from Starbucks to take the top job a little over two years ago. She was also previously chief executive of Walmart’s Sam’s Club business.
Along with last year’s exploration of a sale of its Boots business, Brewer’s departure is further sign that Walgreens has little interest in retail, according to GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders. Walgreens and major rivals like CVS have neglected their front-of-store operations in favor of expanding medical services.
“The retail side of the business, where Ms. Brewer has much more experience, is simply not an area that Walgreens wants to pursue as a major growth opportunity,” he said in emailed comments. “The company seems more than content to let its retail operation bump along the bottom with mediocre sales results.”
Graham’s resume bolsters that notion. She has held leadership positions across the healthcare industry for nearly 30 years, including at Amylin Pharmaceuticals, where she was president and CEO from 2003 to 2007, and at cardiology medical tech company Guidant Corporation. She launched her career at Eli Lilly and Company, per Walgreens’ release.
“Ginger is the ideal person to serve as interim CEO, given her leadership experience across multiple segments of the healthcare industry, deep knowledge of WBA, and strong operational skills,” Walgreens Executive Chairman Stefano Pessina said in a statement. “Our Board and leadership team will intensify our focus on creating value for our customers and our shareholders while we advance the search for a successor with deep healthcare experience to lead in today’s dynamic environment.”
But leaning toward just one side of the business may be a mistake, Saunders said.
“Healthcare is a lucrative sector and Walgreens is not wrong to see it as a major part of its future playbook,” he said. “However, the new permanent CEO will need to remember that it is possible to invest in both healthcare and retail. It should not be an either/or decision.”