Rosalind “Roz” Brewer has announced that she is leaving coffee giant Starbucks, where she served as chief operating officer to become the new CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance (a DiversityInc Noteworthy company). The move will make Brewer the only current Black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and only the second to ever fill that role in history.
The move comes at a challenging time for the company, amidst COVID-19 restrictions and booming demand for vaccinations, which will push pharmacies across the country even further into the frontlines in the battle against the pandemic.
The Chicago Tribune has reported that “even before COVID-19, Walgreens had been working to adapt to changing consumer habits and pressures related to reimbursements for medications.” According to reporter Lisa Schencker, that included “trying to give customers more reasons to visit its stores by forming partnerships with companies including Kroger and FedEx.”
Brewer seems ready for the challenge. In a statement following her appointment, she said “The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, and I am excited to work alongside the entire WBA team as we deliver further innovation and positively impact the lives of millions of people around the world every day. This is especially true today as the company plays a crucial role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. I step into this role with great optimism for the future of WBA, a shared responsibility to serve our customers, patients and communities, and a commitment to drive long-term sustainable value for shareholders.”
Outgoing Walgreens CEO Stefano Pessina agreed that Brewer was the right person to head the company going forward.
“The Board conducted an extensive search to identify an exceptional leader who will build on WBA’s track record of success and take advantage of the many growth opportunities in many markets across the company. We are excited to have found that person in Roz,” he said. “She is a distinguished and experienced executive who has led organizations globally through periods of changing consumer behavior by applying innovation that elevates customer experiences — ultimately driving significant and sustainable growth and value creation. Her relentless focus on the customer, talent development, operational rigor and strong expertise in digital and technological transformation are exactly what WBA needs as the company enters its next chapter.”
In her prior role at Starbucks, Brewer led company operations across the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. She also headed global functions of the supply chain, product innovation and store development. Prior to her position at Starbucks in 2017, she also served as President and CEO of Sam’s Club, the members-only warehouse channel of Walmart (No. 32 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020). Brewer began her 22-year career at Kimberly-Clark Corp., starting as a chemist at the company before rising to the role of president of its global non-wovens unit.
Brewer will succeed current Walgreen’s Pessina starting on March 15. She will join Marvin Ellison of Lowe’s, Kenneth Frazier of Merck, and Roger Ferguson of TIAA (No. 9 in 2020) as one of the few Black CEOs currently leading a Fortune 500 company.
D.I. Fast Facts
Only women to ever chair a Fortune 500 company prior to today’s announcement. Burns served as the CEO of Xerox from 2009 to 2016. Mary Winston had a brief tenure as interim CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond before the company appointed Mark Tritton.
Number of drugstores around the globe operating as part of the Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Number of customers Walgreens serves daily
More than 450,000
Number of men and women the drug store chain employs