It’s official: Wasson is new Walgreens CEO
Walgreens has culminated its nationwide search for a new leader by staying true to its long history of promoting from within. The company’s three-month search for a permanent chief executive officer to succeed Jeff Rein concluded today when Walgreens announced it has awarded the post to its own second in command: president and chief operating officer Greg Wasson.
Wasson will retain his title of president, and will work alongside Alan McNally, who will remain Walgreens chairman after filling the role of interim CEO after the abrupt departure of Rein Oct. 10.
McNally praised Wasson as “a strong, natural leader and strategist with a clear view of where he wants to take this company to deliver improved shareholder returns.
“Since he became President nearly two years ago, his personal leadership has been instrumental in assembling a wonderfully talented leadership team with a diverse set of capabilities from Walgreens, acquired health care companies, and direct hires from other industries,” McNally added. “Greg has been the key architect and is now leading the implementation of Walgreens ‘more from the core’ strategy that is rapidly and fundamentally transforming our company.”
Wasson, for his part, expressed confidence in the company’s fundamentals despite the current economic upheaval. “It is a very exciting time for Walgreens,” he said. “Despite the challenges we face from a difficult retail environment, we believe our fundamental strengths as a company – the best, most convenient, community-based store network in America; our iconic brand; and strong balance sheet – are tremendous competitive advantages that will accelerate the strategic transformation and success of our company.”
By choosing the 50-year-old, 29-year company veteran over a slate of candidates from other companies and even other industries, Walgreens’ board of directors and its search committee tacitly acknowledged that the best person for the job was the one who was, for all intents and purposes, already filling the role of chief executive. “During the past three-and-a-half months, the special committee conducted a national search to find the best person to become Walgreens’ new CEO,” explained William Foote, head of the nominating and governance committee.
“This is the first time in the company’s history that an external search has been conducted for the CEO position,” Foote acknowledged. “Our process was intensive, wide reaching and thorough, considering both internal and numerous external candidates. Both the committee and board have unanimously concluded that Greg Wasson is the best person to lead Walgreens forward as we pursue our growth strategy to return this company to higher levels of earnings performance.”
Added board member James Skinner, who also helped lead the search for Rein’s successor, “Greg brings an unmatched combination of proven leadership skills and a breadth and depth of industry experience in retail operations, consumer marketing, health care delivery and business-to-business client relationships to his new role as CEO. He is ideally suited to lead Walgreens in its mission to be America’s most convenient provider of consumer goods and services, and pharmacy, health and wellness services.”
Given Walgreens’ recent sales and earnings setbacks and the dismal state of the economy, Wasson will have to hit the ground running. But he appears well suited to the role, and turned in a highly competent performance at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting earlier this month, reassuring anxious investors that the company was taking the big steps needed to reassert its industry leadership.
Among the steps he outlined: reducing Walgreens’ operating costs, sparking higher front-end sales, and forging a more integrated model of health and pharmacy retailing that draws “more from the core” of the company’s assets and its relationships with employers, health professionals, patients and other managed-care stakeholders.
Wasson only moved up to the post of president and COO in 2007, but he quickly made his mark as a poised, confident manager who could articulate a new vision for Walgreens as an integrated provider of a full spectrum of pharmacy and health services. Under his direction, Walgreens has pursued essentially a new and broader mission as an integrated health retailer for a new health care paradigm.
It’s a role for which Wasson is well suited. Before his promotion to president and COO less than two years ago, he served for five years as head of Walgreens Health Services, the company’s fast-growing pharmacy benefit management and specialty pharmacy operation, following a long career in Walgreens field operations and regional management. He brought his expertise in PBM operations and the needs of employers and other health plan payers to his new role as the company’s second in command, boosting Walgreens’ commitment to employer-based clinic and pharmacy operations, cost-saving alternatives for payers and specialty pharmacy services.
For Wasson, the retail mission for Walgreens has evolved and expanded as the population has aged, health costs have skyrocketed and new opportunities have arisen for a more integrated, holistic and data-driven approach to health care retailing. As chief executive, he’ll continue to push for a broader model of pharmacy and health care services.
“There has never been a better time to move the profession of pharmacy forward,” he told Drug Store News last year. “The stars are aligning. Healthcare is in crisis. Employers, the government, managed care organizations and patients are looking for solutions.”
George H. Bartell Jr. passes away at 92
SEATTLE George H. Bartell Jr., chairman emeritus of the nation’s oldest pharmacy retailer Bartell Drug Co., died on Jan. 21 in Scottsdale, Ariz., after a short illness. He was 92 years old.
Bartell Jr., the only son of the company’s founder, not only guided the chain through its initial suburban expansion and retail transformation following World War II, but proudly carried on the tradition of customer service and respect of employees after taking over the business from his father, George H. Bartell Sr.
“My father instilled in us what his own father had believed: respect your employees and treat your customers well,” stated George D. Bartell, Bartell Jr.’s son who continued the family tradition by becoming president in 1990 and later became and remains chairman and CEO.
The current third generation of Bartells running the 55-store chain includes vice chairman and treasurer, Jean Bartell Barber.
When Bartell Jr. was a youngster his father asked him if the company should be sold to a rival, out-of-state drug store chain for $1 million. Without hesitation, Bartell Jr. told his father no. His father agreed and today the company is the oldest family-owned drug store chain the United States with locations in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties of Washington.
In 1935, Bartell Jr. left the University of Washington after one year of study because a doctor had informed his father that he had only a few months to live. As it turned out, his father lived more than 20 years longer and actually outlived the doctor.
Bartell Jr., an avid hiker and ardent golfer, began at the bottom of his father’s business, moving boxes and filling warehouse orders as he learned the business. He continued his on-the-job training by working as a clerk and then an assistant store manager before being put in charge of purchasing and merchandising for the candy and tobacco departments. He later took charge of store design and was named president in 1939. In 1942, Bartell Jr., who grew up on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill, was drafted into the U.S. Army and rose to the rank captain.
In 1951, a state law requiring drug store owners to be licensed pharmacists prompted him to enroll in the University of Washington after a 17-year absence and earn a degree in pharmacy. The law was later ruled unconstitutional, but at the time of its passage, it appeared that unless he returned to college to earn a degree in pharmacy, the company would have to be sold when his father died.
In the 1950s, Bartell Drugs became the first drug store located in a major regional shopping center—Seattle’s Northgate Mall. The company also began opening new locations in growing communities throughout King County, including Bellevue and Burien.
Aside from enjoying hobbies, Bartell Jr. also participated in a number of civic and philanthropic activities. These included The Municipal League, the Pacific Northwest Chapter of Young President’s Organization and The Retail Trade Bureau, all of which he headed at one point in time, as well as Boy Scouts and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the Rainier Club, Scottish Rite Temple and the Chief Executive’s Forum. He was also a supporter of the University of Washington School of Pharmacy and Husky football.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 54 years, Elizabeth, who passed away in 2003. He is survived by his children, George D. Bartell, Jean Bartell Barber, Robert H. Bartell, and seven grandchildren.
Memorials may be addressed to the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America or The Salvation Army. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Feb. 5 at the University Presbyterian Church, 4540 15th Avenue NE in Seattle.
Study finds Kentucky has most smoking-related deaths
ATLANTA More people die from smoking-related illnesses in Kentucky than in any other state, with 371-in-100,000 deaths among adults aged 35 and older resulting from smoking, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The next nine states with the highest rates were West Virginia, Nevada, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana and Missouri. Utah had the lowest rate, with 138 out of every 100,000 deaths caused by smoking.
In addition to having the highest death rates from smoking, Kentucky and West Virginia also had the highest percentages of adults who smoked.