Walgreens Names Stefano Pessina Permanent CEO

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -
Stefano Pessina, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (Walgreens Boots Alliance via AP)
Stefano Pessina, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (Walgreens Boots Alliance via AP)

Walgreens Boots Alliance said Thursday that Stefano Pessina is the permanent CEO, ending a search for a successor to Greg Wasson.

Pessina took over as acting CEO in December, when Wasson announced his retirement just weeks before Walgreens completed its acquisition of Alliance Boots, a European drugstore chain. Pessina had been executive chairman of Alliance Boots.

Pessina will continue to report to James Skinner, executive chairman of Walgreens Boots Alliance.

“In Walgreens Boots Alliance’s initial six months as a newly combined company, Stefano has done an extraordinary job leading the new enterprise, focusing on our strategy while enhancing our financial performance,” Skinner said in a statement. “In order to continue with this momentum and to recognize the progress that is already being made, the board concluded Stefano is the very best person to achieve our vision.”

Pessina is 73, an age when most corporate chieftains have long retired.

His age will likely lead to speculation about the length of his tenure at the helm of the company, based in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Ill. He is also Walgreens’ largest shareholder, giving him more influence with the board of directors than most CEOs.

Pessina is an Italian-born billionaire who was added to the Walgreens board when the company initially acquired a 45 percent stake in Alliance Boots. The agreement also gave Pessina control of about 7.6 percent of the company’s stock.

When Walgreens bought the rest of Alliance Boots last year, the deal made Pessina by far the biggest holder, with 16 percent of the combined company.

Walgreens also reported its fiscal third-quarter results on Thursday. Net income increased 82 percent to $1.3 billion, or $1.18 a share, from $714 million, or 74 cents a share, in the year-earlier period.

Revenue rose 48 percent to $28.8 billion.

The company took pre-tax charges of $160 million for restructuring operations, which included closing nine U.S. drugstores and streamlining the U.S. pharmacies field operations and corporate office.

U.S. drugstore sales, which include Walgreens and Duane Reade stores, increased 5.3 percent to $20.4 billion. Prescription sales accounted for two-thirds of U.S. drugstores’ total revenue.

Same-store sales, which measure stores open at least a year, increased 6.3 percent from a year ago.