(Reuters) -Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Rosalind Brewer has stepped down, the U.S. pharmacy chain operator said on Friday, less than three years after the former Starbucks executive took the top job.
Brewer's departure was part of a mutually agreed decision, Walgreens said, without providing further details, after a tenure that saw the company's share price nearly cut in half as it tried to broaden its reach as a healthcare provider.
Walgreens named lead independent director Ginger Graham as interim chief while it searches for a permanent replacement.
The company's shares have been pummeled all year, down about 32% as its pharmacy unit has been hit by a steeper-than-expected fall in demand for COVID tests and vaccines.
The stock is down roughly 47% since March 2021 when Brewer joined the company from Starbucks.
Walgreens made a series of deals during her tenure to push deeper into healthcare and pivot from its core pharmacy business by operating doctors' offices and offering more services. However, the company earlier this year warned that weak spending trends could continue into 2024.
Still, the timing of the announcement will likely take many by surprise, said Evercore ISI analyst Elizabeth Anderson, though she said the event itself was not surprising due to the underperformance of the stock.
"With the increased focus on growing the Walgreens Healthcare segment ... it makes sense to retrench and search for a new leadership team with more extensive backgrounds in healthcare services," Anderson added.
Brewer was one of the few Black CEOs among the Fortune 500 list of America's largest companies. She will receive a $9 million severance and remain as a special adviser through February 2024 that will pay her a monthly consulting fee of $375,000, Walgreens said.
The pharmacy chain operator said it expects full-year 2023 adjusted earnings per share to be at or near the low end of its prior forecast.
Walgreens' shares were down 2.2% in Friday trading.
(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shounak Dasgupta)