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Cork Walgreen, evidently backward but inwardly driven, additionally hived off ancillary businesses including optical centers, the Sansborn administration aliment and Robin Hood’s and Wag’s restaurants to focus on the amount pharmacy business.

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His successor, Daniel Jorndt, the aboriginal non-family affiliate to run the company, connected Walgreen’s advance spree. From 1990, back he became admiral and arch operating officer, to his retirement as administrator and CEO in 2002, acquirement added than quadrupled to $28.68 billion and balance added added than fivefold to $1.02 billion.

Even as the top boss, Mr. Jorndt legendarily answered the buzz in the aforementioned address he did as a adolescent pharmacist at a North Ancillary abundance in the 1960s: “This is Dan Jorndt. How may I advice you?” Employees followed his ancient humility, calling anybody in top administration mister, rather than application a aboriginal name.


Throughout the 1990s, Walgreen’s acceptability was ogously conservative. While added angishore giants such as CVS Corp., Rite Aid Corp. and Eckerd Corp. were rapidly accepting abate chains and absolute pharmacies, Walgreen — which acquainted austere afterwards accepting New England’s MediMart in 1986 and spending too abundant time and money to catechumen the aliment — banned to detour from its advance of accepting bigger alone by architecture added of its own stores.

The site-by-site amplification connected into the 2000s beneath CEO David Bernauer, addition Walgreen lifer who was acknowledgment to run the aggregation in 2002. But it began to sputter beneath Jeffrey Rein, who took over in 2006 as the pharmacy mural grew added complicated.

Mail-order pharmacies spent best of the 1990s and aboriginal 2000s aggressively allure bloom affliction administrators with 30% discounts, which were anesthetized on to consumers via lower co-payments.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, the world’s bigger retailer, befuddled up the pharmacy business added by alms $4 all-encompassing drugs, a profit-crushing abatement Walgreen cautiously akin with a decree accumulation club. Then, in 2008, archrival CVS of Woonsocket, R.I., bulked up by topping a last-minute bid from Walgreen for Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Longs Drugs; the $2.9-billion accretion fabricated CVS Walgreen’s according in abundance count.

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In the fourth division of 2007, Walgreen’s anniversary assets fell for the aboriginal time in about a decade, the alpha of a asperous application that includes a 7% bead in anniversary accumulation in budgetary 2009 and a abatement in 2010’s third quarter.

“For a aeon of about bristles years, there were new aggressive threats bustling up everywhere, and CVS was consistently outflanking Walgreen,” says Neil Stern, an yst at Chicago-based retail consultancy McMillan Doolittle LLP.

Mr. Rein didn’t aftermost long. He larboard the aggregation in October 2008, two canicule afterwards he absent Longs to CVS. Mr. Wasson, who started as a Walgreen pharmacy intern while belief at Purdue University in 1980, replaced him.

Despite possessing a résumé archetypal of Walgreen’s top brass, Mr. Wasson, 52, has badly afflicted the way the aggregation does business. His gutsiest move came beforehand this year, back he jettisoned Walgreen’s centralized pharmacy annual manager.

PBMs are third-party administrators that accommodate prices with pharmacies and drugmakers on annual of accumulated audience and pay their decree biologic claims. Walgreen created its own, Walgreens Bloom Initiatives, in 1995, but the business never accomplished the backpack all-important to accommodate acceptable deals for its customers.

CVS took a altered approach, advantageous $26.5 billion for Caremark Rx, one of the country’s bigger annual managers, in 2007. The acquirement put Walgreen on the defensive. PBMs handle about 70% of all prescriptions abounding in the U.S., and the top three managers — CVS Caremark Corp., MedCo Bloom Solutions Inc. and ExpressScripts — annual for 60% of all PBM business.

“Walgreen was absolutely an also-ran in the PBM industry,” says Adam Fein, admiral of Pembroke Consulting Inc., a pharmacy-industry adviser in Philadelphia. As the ninth-largest manager, it had beneath than 3% marketshare in 2010, he says.

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In March, Walgreen awash its PBM to Catalyst Bloom Solutions Inc. for $525 million.

“They fabricated a actual accessible auction of it, absolutely aloof to affectionate of rub it in CVS’ face,” says Jeff Jonas, a New York-based yst at Gabelli & Co. “Caremark was pitched as this big transformational thing, but Walgreen capital to point out that the PBM business is appealing bouldered and not what they do.”


Lately, ysts acquire speculated that CVS ability circuit off Caremark, which absent acquirement in 2010 as it bootless to renew audience and accustomed lower reimbursements.

But the abridgement of a bound PBM leaves Walgreen abased on outsiders to beacon prescriptions its way. Insured Americans, best of whom are barter of the three big PBMs, acquire little allurement to ample a decree at a Walgreen store. Indeed, PBMs, whose capital ambition is to abate costs for their accumulated clients, adopt cheaper mail-order options — or, in CVS Caremark’s case, CVS stores.

So far, Mr. Wasson has acclimated Walgreen’s incomparable arrangement of stores, including 6,533 with drive-through windows and 1,613 accessible about the clock, to absorb business from PBMs. Aftermost year, for instance, he threatened to stop bushing prescriptions for Caremark affairs unless Caremark paid Walgreen added for bushing prescriptions and alone behavior benign CVS. The companies formed out an acceding in beneath than two weeks.

Now he’s aggressive to cut off St. Louis-based ExpressScripts at the end of 2011, arguing that it isn’t advantageous Walgreen enough. This time, the PBM claims to acquire the aerial hand: Barter can aces up prescriptions at added pharmacies aural a half-mile of best Walgreen stores, it says, which agency accident Walgreen would aggravation alone a few patients.

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“The body of the affair is the question, ‘How admired is Walgreen’s abundance network?’ ” Ms. Adler of Barclays says. “I don’t apperceive that we acquire an acknowledgment yet.”

PBMs acquire aching Walgreen in addition way. Because they acquire bargain customer co-pays by as abundant as 30% to allurement them to about-face to mail-order, ysts say, the pharmacy annual managers acquire affected Walgreen to activate ogous mail-order prices on 90-day prescriptions abounding at its aliment this year. “Walgreen is accommodating to acquire lower advantage in adjustment to accumulate bodies visiting its stores,” Mr. Fein says.

Kermit Crawford, Walgreen’s admiral of pharmacy services, says that’s not true. Walgreen still commands a slight exceptional over mail rates, he says, because its 90-day abundance refills action accessibility and the advantage of added all-encompassing drugs saves PBMs money. It additionally costs Walgreen beneath to allocate one 90-day decree than three 30-day scripts, he notes. The aggregation doesn’t breach out financials for its pharmacy business.

Walgreen continued has relied on biologic sales for two-thirds of its profit. It abounding 778 actor prescriptions in 2010, up from 651 actor in 2009, acknowledgment in allotment to its $1.08-billion accretion of the 258-store Duane Reade alternation in New York. Walgreen accounts for 16% of all prescriptions abounding in the U.S. CVS aliment acquire 14% and Caremark addition 6%, authoritative them the bazaar leader. Rounding out the blow are MedCo with 9%, Rite-Aid Corp. and Wal-Mart anniversary with 6%, and ExpressScripts with 5%.

An accessible flood of all-encompassing drugs should accord pharmacy sales addition lift, accretion profits for now. Generics are abundant cheaper than brand-name drugs, such as blockbusters like Lipitor and Plavix, which will lose apparent aegis over the aing year or so. Generally, though, retailers can mark up generics added because broad appraisement is blurred to outsiders.

But with burden from all abandon to lower biologic costs, Walgreen can no best calculation on decree acquirement to lift abiding sales. Nor can the banker abound abundant by accretion its footprint. Afterwards accretion abundance locations by 9% a year in the aboriginal to mid-2000s, Mr. Wasson assured that the exchange was saturated and bargain additions to 3% in 2011.

Instead, he is aggravating to addition achievement through article he’s dubbed customer-centric retailing. This entails abacus food, beer, wine and liquor, accretion beauty-products aisles and decluttering shelves by eliminating slow-selling goods. The makeovers amount about $45,000 per store. Over the accomplished two years, added than 4,000 aliment acquire been revamped, with a ambition of extensive 5,500 by October.

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(The attack into aliment has become a political plus. At the bidding of above Mayor Richard M. Daley, Walgreen appear it would add alpha bake-apple and vegetables to 11 aliment in poor neighborhoods; now, alive with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the aggregation afresh said it affairs to set up 30 added such oases in “food deserts” and add 600 jobs.)

Analysts initially were agnostic of customer-centric retailing. But Walgreen says the accomplishment has alone $500 actor in account and aerial same-store sales. “CCR started a little apathetic and got austere during the recession, but it’s alpha to pay off,” Gabelli’s Mr. Jonas says.


Mr. Wasson is activity afterwards online customers, too, blasting up Drugstore.com for $429 actor in March. The accord gives Walgreen admission to Drugstore.com’s 3 actor online shoppers and 60,000 over-the-counter bloom and adorableness items, putting the aggregation a footfall advanced of CVS and in a bigger position to bulwark off challenges from Wal-Mart and Target Corp., whose aisles, and websites, accommodate abounding of the aforementioned articles as Walgreen’s.

But the amount reflected a 113% exceptional on the b amount of a dot-com that has never acquaint a full-year accumulation in its 13-year history. And admitting its name, drugstore.com won’t advice Walgreen’s online biologic sales: The armpit awash off its decree biologic business to BioScrip in 2010 in a accord admired at $10.9 million.

“I anticipate they were awash a bill of goods,” Mr. Palizza says. “They paid a lot of money for an bootless company.”

Mr. Wasson additionally is attractive to beef up pharmacy sales by adorning the ogue of what, exactly, a pharmacy is.

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Rather than aloof bushing decree bottles like anybody else, Walgreen is acceptable administration and bloom affairs to acquire bodies appear to its aliment for expensive, complicated medicines for abiding diseases ahead advised in a doctor’s office, like rheumatoid arthritis, blight and hepatitis C. Spending on these specialty drugs acicular 20% aftermost year, alert the 10% access on approved drugs, according to ExpressScripts. By 2014, advisers at Thomson Reuters predict, seven of the top 10 drugs by dollar sales will be specialties.

Walgreen additionally owns the bigger arrangement of worksite and in-store clinics in the country afterward its 2007 accretion of Take Affliction Bloom Systems, which operates about 700 clinics staffed with assistant practitioners. Wal-Mart, by comparison, has beneath than 150; CVS has about 500, but it aims to bifold that amount by 2015.

“Walgreens has fabricated a cardinal accommodation to become the bigger dispenser in the country appropriate now,” Mr. Fein says. “They acquire the bigger and best assorted set of dispensing channels of anybody out there.”

The worksite clinics, in particular, action advance abeyant as administration try anarchistic means to cut bloom affliction bills. Large companies that advance in an onsite dispensary save 10% to 30% on their bloom care, according to Fuld & Co. in Cambridge, Mass.

Although Walgreen awash added than 7 actor flu shots during the 2009-10 winter, the in-store clinics acquire not yet accurate to be year-round moneymakers. “It’s adamantine to absolve the amount of a assistant practitioner back you’re alone accomplishing aerial aggregate bristles months out of the year,” Ms. Adler says.

As Walgreen transforms the way it does business in its additional century, Mr. Wasson is aishment the abiding and calm accumulated ability that was so basic to its aboriginal 100 years.

“Pharmacists are amid the world’s best bourgeois professionals because if they accomplish a aberration they can annihilate someone,” says Mr. Palizza, the above Walgreen broker relations executive. As a result, “the angel Walgreen has consistently capital to activity was one of accumulated Boy Scouts” who had appear up through the ranks of abundance operations.

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Mr. Wasson fits the mold: Afterwards starting as a academy intern, he became a pharmacist and a abundance administrator in Houston afore actuality acknowledgment to commune administrator and bounded vice-president. “He’s a Midwestern, plain-spoken, what-you-see-is-what-you-get guy,” Mr. Palizza says.

But, as allotment of massive cost-cutting that began in 2008, a advanced swath of adept admiral who fit that angel was offered aboriginal retirement. In their stead, Mr. Wasson assassin the aboriginal bulk of outsiders anytime to run the company, which had prided itself on centralized promotions.

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