Walgreens was founded in 1901 by Chicagoan Charles R. Walgreen, Sr. By 1913, the business had grown to 4 Chicago locations. By 1919, there were 20 stores. The chain grew rapidly in the 1920s and there were 397 stores in 87 cities by 1930. This rapid growth has been, in part, attributed to Walgreens selling bootleg liquor during Prohibition. In 1939, Charles R. Walgreen, Sr. died and his son, Charles Jr. took over the company. Jr. retired in the early 1950s and his son, Cork, took over the company. In 1986, the company acquired MediMart.
In recent years, the company has gone through CEOs in rapid succession with 4 different CEOs since 2006:
- In 2006, David Bernauer steps down as CEO and is replaced by Jeff Rein
- In 2008, Rein quits abruptly and is replaced by Alan McNally
- In early 2009, Gregory Wasson is named CEO
- In 2014, facing pressure from shareholders after the merger, Wasson retires and is replaced by Stefano Pessina
The chain currently operates over 8300 locations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The Walgreens Corporate Office is located just outside Chicago in Deerfield, Illinois. In 2014, the company purchased Alliance Boots and formed a new company “Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.” Walgreens has since become a subsidiary of the company. The newly formed company is publicly traded on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol: WBA.
In 2012, the DEA accused Walgreens of failing to maintain proper control over prescription pain medication, especially Oxycodone. The company was fined $80 million in 2013.
In early 2018, Walgreens announced that they would be closing more than 600 Walgreens and Rite-aid locations over the course of the year.
It’s been rumored that Walgreens was considering purchasing all or part of AmerisourceBerggen, makers of Oxycontin, but with a lawsuit looming, that plan might have been delayed.