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Walgreen Boots Alliance CEO Stefano Pessina is stepping down after five years at the helm of the business.

He will become executive chairman once a successor is found, Walgreen Boots Alliance has confirmed.

Current executive chairman James Skinner will step down but remain on the board to facilitate a smooth leadership transition, the company said.

Pessina became CEO in 2015, shortly after the merger of Walgreens and Alliance Boots, which he is credited with orchestrating. The Italian-born billionaire was also behind the combination of Alliance UniChem and Boots to form Alliance Boots in 2006.

Walgreen Boots Alliance’s share price has tumbled during his time in charge amid a number of pressures. In the UK, the coronavirus pandemic has heaped pressure on Boots, culminating in the announcement earlier this month of 4,000 job losses and the closure of 48 optician practices in response to falling sales during lockdown.

Walgreen Boots Alliance has more than 18,750 stores and 440,000 employees in over 25 countries.

“I want to thank our team members around the world for their extensive achievements in the last five years, as we have fulfilled our purpose to help people lead healthier and happier lives,” said Pessina, who is Walgreens Boots Alliance’s biggest shareholder, with a 16% stake.

“I look forward to continuing to serve the company as executive chairman, and to helping to ensure the success of the new chief executive officer in every way possible. I am also very glad that Jim and I will continue to work together on the board, and on behalf of the entire company, we greatly appreciate all his contributions during his time as executive chairman.”

Skinner said: “It has been an enormous privilege to work with Stefano, the board of directors and all our employees during my time as executive chairman. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity, as well as the chance to continue to serve as a board member in the future.

”Together, we have built our company into a global leader in retail and wholesale pharmacy. As the healthcare industry and consumer behaviour continue to advance quickly, we look forward to a new CEO joining the team with the deep expertise and skillset to drive future success as we move into a new chapter of our company’s very long and proud history.”