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Rite Aid turns over a new leaf

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT All this really means is that Rite Aid is steady as she goes, because this was the succession plan put into place when John Standley returned to Rite Aid 16 months ago. It also means that if Standley delivers on the promise the board of directors sees in him, Rite Aid won’t be in need of its next CEO for well more than a decade.

(THE NEWS: Standley to assume president, CEO roles at Rite Aid. For the fully story, click here)

Standley was one of four executives originally recruited from Fred Meyer to engineer Rite Aid’s first turnaround. Mary Sammons was another of course, having played a key leadership role at Rite Aid since the turn of the century. And also still active on Rite Aid’s board is Bob Miller, who initially assumed the Rite Aid turnaround project from his CEO position at Fred Meyer.

The fourth former Fred Meyer executive was David Jessick, who stepped out of the Rite Aid day-to-day in 2002 and who also serves on the company’s board.

Once the turnaround at Rite Aid was complete, Standley departed the national pharmacy chain in 2005 and authored his second turnaround — this time Pathmark Stores.

In that time, Rite Aid became the predominant drug chain on the East Coast through its acquisition of Brooks/Eckerd, saddling the company with another large debt load and turnaround task not too long before the economy tanked. So with Standley’s return to Rite Aid, the question always had been can he lay claim to a turnaround success for the third time.

That question’s yet to be answered, of course, but it sure seems so. Rite Aid successfully re-negotiated a substantial portion of its debt in the past year, and that during a time when banks were maybe a little more risk averse than they have been historically. Also in the past year, Rite Aid also successfully steered its stock price back above $1, bringing the public company back into the good graces of NASDAQ and without ever having to resort to a reverse-stock split.

So the banking community and Wall Street investors have both seemed to voice a vote of confidence in Rite Aid. The only remaining voice that counts is the consumer. And Rite Aid will be going a long way to increase its reputation among those stakeholders later this year as it couples a loyalty card program with the host of healthcare offerings already on the chain’s slate.

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Walgreens raises more than $1 million for Haiti

BY Allison Cerra

DEERFIELD, Ill. Just days into offering customers the option to make donations to Haiti disaster relief efforts at its registers, Walgreens stores across the country have collected more than $1 million.

Contributions are helping the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund send much needed assistance and aid to those affected by last week’s earthquake.

Walgreens stores will continue taking customer donations through the end of the month, the drug store chain said.

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Standley to assume president, CEO roles at Rite Aid

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. Rite Aid on Thursday announced that John Standley will be promoted to the position of president and CEO effective June 24 at the company’s annual stockholder meeting. Mary Sammons, currently Rite Aid chairman and CEO, will continue as chairman.

Standley’s promotion is part of the company’s executive succession plan and was approved Thursday at a regularly scheduled meeting of Rite Aid’s board of directors. Sammons, 63, will remain Rite Aid chairman until the company’s annual meeting in June 2012. Sammons said she intends to be an active chairman, continuing to represent the company in industry and government affairs as well as assist as needed with strategic initiatives.

Standley, 46, returned to Rite Aid in September 2008 as president and COO after leaving in August 2005 to become CEO and board director of Pathmark Stores, where he was credited for engineering a second turnaround, the first being Rite Aid during his first tour there. He originally joined Rite Aid in December 1999 as EVP and CFO, part of a new executive management team that also included Sammons. He has served as a member of the Rite Aid board since June 2009.

“When I asked [Standley] to return to Rite Aid, I knew he would move swiftly to improve our company’s operations,” Sammons said. “As president and COO, he’s helped us manage through this recession and set in motion initiatives to grow our company for the future. We are in a much stronger financial position today in large part due to his leadership. His many accomplishments in such a short time as president and COO and his previous successful track record at our company demonstrate his ability to guide Rite Aid as its next CEO.”

“It’s a privilege to work with [Sammons] and the 99,000 talented and dedicated Rite Aid associates to build on the considerable progress we’ve made in the past year,” Standley said. “While we still have a lot of hard work ahead, I’m confident in the strategies we’ve identified to improve our performance and look forward to leading the company as we continue to implement initiatives to grow profitable sales, further improve our cost structure and reduce debt.”

From 2005 until 2007, Standley engineered and led a successful turnaround at Pathmark, a $4 billion regional supermarket chain with a strong pharmacy business that was sold to A&P. At Rite Aid between 1999 and 2005, he served as chief administrative officer, senior EVP and CFO, where he was a key part of the team that helped realize Rite Aid’s first turnaround. Prior to Rite Aid, he served in key executive financial positions at various retail and grocery companies including Fleming, Fred Meyer, Ralph’s Grocery and Smith Food & Drug Centers. He is a member of the board of governors of the Children’s Miracle Network.

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