WHITESTONE, N.Y. — Call him “Stewie Rah Rah.” He doesn’t mind. Stewart Rahr, the man in the bright yellow sunglasses who led Kinray to become the nation’s top independently owned pharmaceutical wholesaler, soon will have more time for his other interests.
In November, Kinray struck a $1.3 billion deal to merge with Cardinal Health. The buyout, expected to be finalized by spring, will end one of the most colorful and successful chapters in the annals of the drug distribution industry. Rahr, the son of a pharmacist, worked at his dad’s drug store and dropped out of law school to help build the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based drug distribution business his father founded as Kinray in 1944.
Beginning as a tiny local operation doing less than $1 million in distribution revenues in the mid-1970s, today Kinray has grown to a 400,000-sq.-ft. distribution center at its Whitestone, N.Y., campus, generating $3.6 billion in annual revenues and employing some 800 people. Its loyal customer base includes some 2,000 independent pharmacy customers, many of who operate in the New York/New Jersey metro area, but some of who order generics and other supplies from Kinray from as far as the western United States.
Kinray’s success can be tied directly to Rahr’s insistence on a culture of personal, highly responsive service and rapid order turnaround; pharmacy owners know they can pick up the phone and directly call Kinray’s CEO if there’s a problem. Rahr also was an early adopter of high-tech fulfillment capabilities.
As Kinray grew, so, too, did its CEO’s personal fortune. Prior to the Cardinal deal, Forbes magazine estimated Rahr’s fortune at $2.1 billion and named him No. 170 on its list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. Some of that money goes to charity. A well-known philanthropist, Rahr heavily donates to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation, the Christopher Reeves Coalition, Citymeals-on-Wheels, many health advocacy and research groups, the Israeli Defense Fund and victims of 9/11. Besides lending time and funding to the move to draft Donald Trump as a presidential contender, Rahr also is rumored to be considering buying an NBA team.