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08/31/2021

Walgreens Is Looking More Like Walmart With Latest Hires

WBA CEO Rosalind Brewer enlists former Walmart and Sam’s Club colleagues to lead merchandising and finance
Mike Troy
Editorial Director, Grocery Group
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Walgreens Is Looking More Like Walmart With Latest Hires
WBA CEO Rosalind Brewer has hired former colleagues from her time at Walmart and Sam's Club.

Tracey Brown, Jeff Gruener and Danielle Gray have joined the senior leadership team at Walgreens Boots Alliance in key roles six months after Rosalind Brewer was named CEO. It’s common for new CEOs to recruit their own senior leadership team and in Brewer’s case two of the three new hires are former colleagues from her tenure at Sam’s Club and Walmart and the third is a lawyer with strong connections in Washington, D.C.

Named to the newly created role of president of retail products and chief customer officer was Tracey Brown. She will oversee merchandising and marketing, reporting to Walgreens president John Standley, and plans to join the company in early November.

Brown’s selection as head merchant is an interesting one given her lack of experience leading a purchasing organization. Brown spent the past three years as CEO of the American Diabetes Association. Prior to that she spent close to four years with Sam’s Club, where she was brought in by Brewer after Brewer was elevated from an operations role at Walmart to serve as CEO of Sam’s Club in February 2012. Brown joined Sam’s Club in October 2014 and served as chief member officer and then as SVP of operations and chief experience officer. She left in June 2018 after Brewer left Sam’s Club in February 2017 to become COO and group president at Starbucks.

In her new role at Walgreens, Brown will be responsible for the customer experience across all consumer touchpoints and will help to create and execute key strategies that move the business forward in a complex and dynamic competitive landscape, the company said in a statement.

“She will lead the visioning, leadership, strategic direction and performance of the customer experience, developing a unique and modern customer value proposition,” according to Walgreens. “Brown will oversee Walgreens marketing and merchandising functions, responsible for further accelerating the company’s digital transformation, to create seamless integration across all channels – in-store, mobile and online – to provide a unified, consistent brand experience.”

Another of Brewer’s former colleagues at Sam’s Club, Jeff Gruener, will join Walgreens as SVP and CFO of the U.S. segment of Walgreens Boots Alliance. Gruener is a 12-year Walmart veteran who held roles including SVP of finance and strategy, SVP of merchandising operations, VP of finance for Sam’s Club and VP of global procurement. Prior to Walmart, he spent five years with Sears Holdings.

He will report to James Kehoe, EVP and global CFO of Walgreens Boots Alliance. He began on Aug. 30.

The other key hire at the company involves Danielle Gray to the role of EVP and global chief legal officer. Gray’s responsibilities were described as, “supporting the company’s business strategy, goals and mitigating any legal barriers to achieving business objectives.”

She has ties to Walgreens Boots Alliance Board Member Valerie Jarrett, who joined the board last fall and served as a top aide to former President Barack Obama from January 2009 to January 2017. She co-chaired Obama’s transition team and brought in Gray in 2009 for roles in the White House and the Department of Justice. Gray left government in 2014 to joined the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers before most recently serving as SVP of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens is included in the Retail Pharmacy USA division of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. The drug store chain operates more than 9,000 retail locations across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, serving about 8 million customers daily. Walgreens is No. 5 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, while Walmart-owned Sam’s Club ranks No. 9 on the list.

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