Move aims to build on company transformation
DEERFIELD, Ill. — Richard Ashworth has been named president of the Walgreens drug chain, the largest component of Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA). In his new role, Ashworth, a 28-year Walgreens veteran, succeeds Alex Gourlay, who remains WBA’s co-chief operating officer and continues to oversee the Walgreens and Boots businesses.
Ashworth will be responsible for developing the strategies and plans for all Walgreens operations and have full responsibility for the leadership, development and management of the business.
“Richard is a strong leader who grew up with the Walgreens brand and who has a great appreciation for its storied heritage,” says Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and chief executive officer of WBA. “He truly understands our customers and is passionate about the role we play in their daily lives.”
Gourlay adds that “the three things that Richard brings are a deep love for the company, which I think is really important when you’re trying to maintain the traditional strengths of Walgreens, while transforming it into a modern company. Secondly, Richard’s knowledge of the market is complete. He has run many aspects of the business. Thirdly, Richard’s leadership style, which is very aligned to the Walgreens brand — caring, compassionate, energetic, and always willing to consider change and to drive change as appropriate.”
Ashworth joined the drug chain as a store clerk while still in high school. After earning a Pharm.D., he became a Walgreens pharmacist and began a rapid rise through the ranks. Over the course of his career, Ashworth, who also holds an MBA, ran the pharmacy, health care commercial, retail and other business segments. He was president of operations at Walgreens prior to his most recent promotion.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to help lead the organization that I grew up in,” Ashworth comments. “I started back in 1992, but there been an Ashworth in this business for 50 years. My father started in 1970, so it’s an emotional thing, but also one that I’m prepared for. I’ve been fortunate to spend the last five years working with Alex, after coming back from working at Boots in the U.K. The time we’ve spent together and his guidance and leadership have helped create this opportunity.”
The change comes at a time when WBA is reimagining the drug store format to ensure it remains relevant to 21st century consumers. Both on its own and in conjunction with an impressive array of partners in the health care, consumer packaged goods and technology sectors, the company is bolstering its stores’ position as destinations for health, beauty and personal care, while at the same time honing its convenience offer.
“We are pleased to have Richard lead the Walgreens business, and lead the charge as we create the Walgreens of the future,” Pessina says. “His experience will be incredibly valuable as we continue to accelerate our ongoing transformation to best meet the needs of our customers, communities and team members.”
Gourlay, who has served as president of Walgreens since 2014, will focus on his broader responsibilities in his role as co-chief operating officer of WBA. In addition to oversight of the Walgreens and Boots businesses, Gourlay will focus on execution and transformation, and will continue to oversee global operations along with co-chief operating officer Ornella Barra. Gourlay reports to Pessina.
“I would like to thank Alex for his leadership and dedication through a pivotal time following the formation of Walgreens Boots Alliance, and most recently into a period of rapid change across pharmacy and retail,” Pessina says. “He will continue in a key global role as a member of my leadership team, advancing our health and wellness strategy while working closely with Richard.”
For his part, Gourlay says that going forward, “I’ll be spending my time on strengthening the group’s capabilities and making sure that we develop the more unique health care delivery models that we’ve been speaking about for some time. We’ve chosen a partnership strategy and, therefore, my role continues to be to develop the right execution plans with the right partners to make sure that Walgreens customers, and their customers, get the right experiences no matter how, where and when they choose to engage with our brand.”