Rosalind Brewer Takes Over As CEO Of Walgreens, Making Her The Only Black Woman Running A Fortune 500 Company
Brewer is just the third Black woman to ever run a Fortune 500 company.
January 28, 2021 at 5:47 pm
Brewer has a long history of success in business, heading up Sam’s Club until 2017 and then taking over the number two role at Starbucks as the chief operating officer and head of Americas. She will now lead Walgreens and join the company's board of directors as well.
“[Walgreens] is a world-class and trusted organization whose purpose I deeply admire. The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, and I am excited to work alongside the entire WBA team as we deliver further innovation and positively impact the lives of millions of people around the world every day," Brewer said in a statement.
"This is especially true today as the company plays a crucial role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. I step into this role with great optimism for the future of WBA, a shared responsibility to serve our customers, patients, and communities, and a commitment to drive long-term sustainable value for shareholders,” she added.
The Detroit-native is a Spelman College graduate, and she's on the school's board of trustees. Fortune interviewed Brewer in 2019 and she explained that her parents worked for General Motors. She said her parents pushed all five of their children to attend college, and Brewer said, “I just knew I couldn’t fail.”
The company, along with CVS, has faced backlash in recent days from state officials for the delays in actually offering and administering the vaccine to local populations. In a statement, Walgreens said it has already administered more than a million COVID-19 vaccines on Jan. 22.
Brewer is "a distinguished and experienced executive who has led organizations globally through periods of changing consumer behavior by applying innovation that elevates customer experiences – ultimately driving significant and sustainable growth and value creation," according to outgoing CEO Stefano Pessina.
"Her relentless focus on the customer, talent development, operational rigor and strong expertise in digital and technological transformation are exactly what WBA needs as the company enters its next chapter,” Pessina added.
The 58-year-old is credited with reviving Starbucks and Sam’s Club at a time when both companies were struggling, according to Fortune.
In the company statement, Walgreens noted that Brewer was the first woman and first Black person to lead any division of Walmart. She has also been a director at Amazon, Lockheed Martin and Molson Coors Brewing Company.
“Roz is a tough cookie. She’s into the details. She’s not a fluffy person. She gets things done,” said Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo who worked with Brewer and spoke to Fortune about her work.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Brewer will leave her spot on the Amazon board as she takes over Walgreens. They added that the stock price of Walgreens went up eight percent after the announcement of Brewer's new role.
Just two other Black women have served as CEO of Fortune 500 companies, according to Fortune. As CEO of Xerox, Ursula Burns became the first in 2009 and she eventually stepped down in 2016.
In 2019, Mary Winston became the second after taking over Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. on an interim basis in 2019. There have been 16 Black men to serve as CEO of a Fortune 500, according to the magazine.