EVP Taylor, Walgreens part company over ‘impasse’

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreen Co. confirmed today it has severed its relationship with veteran company executive Trent Taylor, president of Walgreens Health Services and one of the highest-ranking members of the company’s management team.

Company officials were mum about the factors that led to Taylor’s departure, but a new company financial filing indicates the two sides may have been at odds over questions of management succession.

Taylor was one of three corporate executive vice presidents at Walgreens as well as head of its managed care and specialty pharmacy division, a position he assumed last April with the elevation of WHS’ former chief, Greg Wasson, to Walgreens president and chief operating officer. Prior to that, he was executive vice president and chief information officer.

Taylor joined Walgreens in 1992 as manager of information systems, but his relationship with the company began the previous decade when he served as a consultant to Walgreens while at Ernst & Young in Chicago. In that capacity, he was instrumental in the development of the vaunted Strategic Inventory Management System.

SIMS is often credited as a cornerstone of Walgreens’ success and profitability in the 1990s and beyond. The system laid the cornerstone for a much smarter and more cost-efficient order-entry and merchandising process at the company by cutting down excessive inventory levels, boosting merchandising efficiency and responding rapidly to changing local in-stock conditions and customer demand patterns.

Taylor was one of a group of talented architects at Walgreens who developed that system; the list also includes Randy Lewis, now senior vice president of distribution and logistics; and John Gleeson, now senior vice president of corporate strategy. His efforts as Walgreens’ chief information officer gained recognition in 2004, when Drug Store News honored him as REX technology executive of the year.

The company was tight-lipped about Taylor’s abrupt departure. A Walgreens spokesman said he couldn’t comment on the termination, but he referred Drug Store News to the company’s most recent 8k financial filing with the SEC, in which Walgreens provided sketchy details.

“The senior management of Walgreen Co. has concluded that its discussions with Trent E. Taylor regarding Mr. Taylor’s role have reached an impasse,” noted the report. “As a result, Mr. Taylor’s employment…was terminated on January 7, 2008.”

Replacing Taylor as president of Walgreens Health Services is Stanley Blaylock, who has also been promoted to corporate senior vice president. Blaylock, 44, was previously corporate vice president and senior VP of specialty pharmacy and home care for WHS.

A former investment banker, Blaylock joined Walgreens in 2006 with the company’s acquisition of Pittsburgh-based Medmark Specialty Pharmacy Solutions, where he was president and chief executive officer. After the acquisition, he led Walgreens specialty pharmacy and home care business, which now includes Option Care, Inc., a specialty pharmacy and home infusion services provider acquired by Walgreens in August 2007.

In another management shift, Walgreens promoted vice president of purchasing David Van Howe to a corporate vice president. Van Howe, 49, joined Walgreens in 2000 as general merchandise manager of beauty and fashion. He was promoted to a divisional vice president in 2004 and oversaw the purchasing department’s health and wellness division before being named vice president of purchasing last April.

Van Howe has more than 30 years of retail experience with Kmart, Arbor Drugs and CVS/pharmacy, which acquired Arbor in 1998.

On Jan. 9, Walgreens also elected Alejandro Silva to its board of directors. Silva, chairman and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Evans Food Group, Ltd., replaced James Howard, who retired.

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