10 Things You Didn’t Know about Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Stefano Pessina

Walgreens is the world’s largest drugstore chain, and it’s leader Stefano Pessina is one of the richest people in the entire world as well. Pessina serves as the CEO and vice chairman of the Walgreens Boot Alliance. It also just so happens that he’s the single largest shareholder for the company. There are plenty of interesting things about this CEO that might even make you like Walgreens even more. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Stefano Pessina.

1. He’s Italian

Pessina, born in Pescara on June 4, 1941, grew up in quite a backdrop. He jumped around from Milan, Como, and Naples. Although he was born in Italy and lived most of his life in different parts of Italy, he also happens to be a citizen of Monaco. Pessina attended and graduated with a degree in nuclear engineering from the Polytechnic University of Milan. His career may have been such a takeoff from his studies, but he’s been one of the most successful businessmen of his generation.

2. Alliance Santé

Pessina’s family owned a pharmaceutical wholesaler back then, which he took over in 1977. After taking over, Pessina immediately turned it into Alliance Santé, another wholesale group. This was Pessina’s first foray into the business world, and soon, his strategies will earn him more money than ever.

3. Alliance Boots

For seven years from 2007 to 2014, Pessina served as chairman of Alliance Boots. To get there, Pessina bought over 1,500 of his rival companies throughout Europe. He then merged his UniChem Group company with Alliance Boots in a $22 billion dollar deal to make the company private.

4. Walgreens

At this point, Pessina owns a large chunk of the pharmaceutical market, especially in Europe. Walgreens saw this and began work on acquiring Pessina’s companies in 2012. By 2014, Walgreens managed to acquire Pessina’s entire pharmacy chain, which is basically what became the Walgreens Boots Alliance company that we know today.

5. Rite Aid

In an effort to expand even further and monopolize the pharmaceutical market, Walgreens Boots Alliance tried to buy out their drugstore rival Rite Aid back in 2015. Rite Aid proved to be a more difficult acquisition, so eventually in 2017, Walgreens Boots Alliance decide to purchase just a portion of Rite Aid stores. We might still see a full acquisition later on, but for now, this is serving more than enough of Walgreens Boots Alliance’s purpose.

6. Family life

Pessina has two children with his former wife, Barbara Pessina, who also happened to be the cousin of famous architect Richard Rogers. The two met while they were studying at the Polytechnic University of Milan. Barbara is still in Milan. Pessina’s children are now grown up. His daughter works in public relations in Paris, while his son works with him at Walgreens Boots Alliance.

7. Long-time romance

Pessina has had the same romantic partner for over 30 years. That partner is Ornella Barra, also an Italian-born Monegasque businesswoman. Barra is a pharmacist and she’s worked in the healthcare industry for all her life. She is 13 years younger than Pessina, and when they met in 1985 at the beginning of her career, she was only 28 years old. Pessina was 44 years old at the time.

8. The largest share

As of today, Pessina owns a total of 15% of Walgreens Boots Alliance. That’s a huge chunk of a company that has about 8,000 stores and a price tag of about $76 billion. Pessina claims he’s not done in his quest to overtake the rest of the world’s pharmaceuticals.

9. Retail killer

Some people have speculated that Pessina might be killing the pharmaceutical retail industry, and there might be some truth in it. Pessina’s goals are currently unknown, and this story is definitely far from the end. But there’s a good possibility that this might be the case, and we might see a pharmaceutical wholesale monopoly in this lifetime.

10. First job

Pessina’s first job after college was head of the statistical department of A.C. Nielsen in Italy. A.C. Nielsen is an information, data, measurement, and research company. The company asked Pessina to move to Chicago, but he declined the offer. He took what he learned, applied it to a different business venture, and found success like no other.


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