The mass retail industry is losing a cheerleader for the beauty category with the upcoming departure of Greg Wasson from his post as president and chief executive officer at Walgreens, said a number of vendors.
This story first appeared in the December 12, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Wasson plans to retire after the drugstore chain completes its merger with Alliance Boots. Walgreens shareholders are scheduled to vote on the deal on Dec. 29. Following the close of the deal and Wasson’s departure, Walgreens chairman James Skinner will assume the post of executive chairman, and Stefano Pessina, executive chairman of Alliance Boots and a Walgreens board member, will take over as acting ceo while the board searches for a successor.
The market did react positively to the upcoming executive changes. Walgreens’ shares price popped up 7.12 percent to close at $73 on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. Those close to the situation said Wasson originally had planned to stay on past the Dec. 29 vote, but there was too much turmoil in the transition. In particular, Pessina, the top shareholder of Alliance Boots, has pushed for greater control.
Wall Street, meanwhile, faulted Walgreens’ management for the decision not to move the company’s legal address abroad in an inversion move. The company also came under fire during the bitter contract dispute with Express Scripts two years ago.
But Wasson is credited with elevating Walgreens’ image and its beauty offering.
“When I became ceo six years ago, I had three goals: to transform the front end of Walgreens drugstores, to advance the role that community pharmacy plays in health care and to find the right partner to take Walgreens global,” stated Wasson. “With the creation of Walgreens Boots Alliance, it is now time for new leadership to move that vision forward.”
One of the most noteworthy moves under Wasson’s leadership was the purchase of Duane Reade and its in-store Look Boutiques, an upscale beauty concept now found in many Walgreens stores. The deal with Boots also has ushered in the Boots No7 brand to a growing number of Walgreens doors. Wasson estimated that at least 25 percent of Walgreens’ 8,229 doors are suited for expanded Boots assortments. But many think Pessina has a bigger ambition to integrate more of the Boots footprint in Walgreens stores, hoping to duplicate the success in the U.K.
Wasson’s departure comes on the heels of several other top managers exiting the company, including chief financial officer Wade Miquelon, pharmacy president Kermit Crawford and Bryan Pugh, vice president of U.S. merchandising, program development and execution.