Inside This Issue - Opinion
Wasson caps a year of achievement
May 20th, 2013
by David Pinto
One of the overlooked events at the recently concluded Annual Meeting of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores was the departure, after a year of service, of Walgreens chief executive Greg Wasson as NACDS chairman.
At the meeting’s conclusion Wasson handed that assignment to Bob Narveson, chief executive of the Thrifty White drug chain of Minnesota.
With that gesture, one of the most productive tenures in NACDS’ history came to an end.
It’s not simply that Wasson exerted an influence on the chain drug association, though he certainly did. During his year as chairman the association raised its health care profile; solidified the agenda for its first Total Store Expo, scheduled for Las Vegas in mid-August; and brought a new sense of urgency to its critical role of presenting and representing community pharmacy to the legislative and regulatory communities of our country.
As well, his presence — he attended virtually every NACDS function throughout the year — and his health care message brought to small chain and independent pharmacy a new level of visibility, appreciation and respect.
Finally, Wasson’s easygoing demeanor and midwestern self-effacement helped to sooth and smooth those ancient asperities between Walgreens and the complex world of community pharmacy that have been traditionally separated by size and a level of accomplishment.
At the same time Walgreens, under Wasson’s leadership and direction, took steps to solidify its position atop the chain drug community.
To review events, this was the year that Walgreens entered into an unprecedented strategic partnership with Alliance Boots, the dominant drug wholesaler/retailer outside the United States. It was the year that Walgreens-Alliance Boots took a significant position in AmerisourceBergen, America’s No. 3 drug wholesaler. It was a year in which Walgreens challenged the hold that Express Scripts, one of the country’s most powerful PBMs, has long exerted over community pharmacy in America. The outcome of that challenge, going forward, will be a loosening of the PBMs’ hold and a more equitable playing field for retail pharmacy.
As he and his team simultaneously finalized and consolidated one of the most stunning partnerships in the annals of chain drug retailing in America, they also effectively led one of the nation’s most accomplished mass retailers on a day-to-day basis.
Wasson was able to accomplish all this for several reasons. First, and most obvious, he has a strong leadership team, possessed of abundant talent and confidence. Second, he clearly has a vision, both for Walgreens and for the industry of which it is an integral part. Third, he has boldly expressed that vision and his team’s intention of carrying it through.
Behind these myriad achievements one fact emerges: Wasson is not afraid to surround himself with talented managers. That’s evident in the relationship he has quickly developed with Stefano Pessina, the man who built Alliance Boots into the retailing and wholesaling powerhouse that has now become Walgreens’ partner, the man who is recognized as being without peer as a thinker, strategist and conceptualizer.
Then there’s Walgreens’ own management team, acknowledged as among the strongest and deepest in chain drug retailing.
So it is with a mixture of regret and respect that chain drug retailing says goodbye to Greg Wasson as NACDS chairman, acknowledges a job well done, recognizes him for his contributions and watches intently from the sidelines to see what surprises this exceptional executive will next pull out of a hat that still conceals more than a few rabbits.