Walgreen CEO Greg Wasson to retire when purchase of UK drugstore chain Alliance Boots closes

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Walgreen President and CEO Greg Wasson will retire after the drugstore chain completes its merger with Alliance Boots, which runs the largest drugstore chain in the United Kingdom.

Walgreen expects that deal to close during the first quarter. The largest U.S. drugstore operator said Wednesday that Alliance Boots Chairman Stefano Pessina will become its acting CEO.

Wasson, who started his career at Walgreen, has overseen big changes to Walgreen Co.’s business since he became CEO in February 2009. Early in his tenure Walgreen acquired the New York City-based Duane Reade chain. In 2012 it took a 45 per cent stake in Alliance Boots, which is based in Switzerland. In August the Deerfield, Illinois, company said it buy would the remaining 55 per cent of Boots.

Walgreen shareholders are scheduled to vote on the deal Dec. 29. The combined company will be called Walgreens Boots Alliance. Walgreen has added about 1,600 stores since Wasson’s appointment, giving it more than 8,200 locations. Alliance Boots has about 4,600 stores.

Walgreen also left the pharmacy benefits management business under Wasson’s leadership. The size of Walgreens Health Initiatives never came close to the size of Caremark, a unit of drugstore chain and pharmacy benefits manager CVS Health Corp.

Shares of Walgreen rose $1.60, or 2.4 per cent, to $69.75 in aftermarket trading Wednesday. They have gained 19 per cent in 2014.