New Boots boss Roz Brewer is most powerful black woman in US business

A Starbucks executive has been appointed the boss of Boots owner Walgreens Boots Alliance, making her one of the most powerful black women in global business.

Roz Brewer, 59, will be the only female black chief executive of a Fortune 500 company, the name given to the largest US firms by revenue.

In the UK she will join Dame Sharon White, the John Lewis chairman, as one of the few black women leading a large British business.

Top job: Starbucks chief operating officer Roz Brewer, 59, has been appointed the boss of Boots owner Walgreens

Brewer has been chief operating officer of Starbucks for three years, and will take over at Walgreens on March 15, succeeding billionaire Stefano Pessina, who built the £32billion empire over four decades.

Pessina, 79, said Brewer ‘is a distinguished and experienced executive who has led organisations globally through periods of changing consumer behaviour by applying innovation that elevates customer experiences’.

He said he would step aside in July, after a five-year stint in charge that saw Walgreens lose a third of its value. Its shares, listed on the Nasdaq, rose more than 5 per cent following the appointment.

Brewer previously ran Sam’s Club, an arm of Walmart, before joining Starbucks where she revamped stores and released cafe staff from administration so they could focus on customer service.

The married mother-of-two, once named by Forbes as one of the world’s 100 most powerful women, is also the only black woman on Amazon’s board.

She will face greater challenges at Boots where a struggling chain has been hammered by a collapse in shoppers caused by the pandemic.

The first lockdown, when many of its stores were loss-making, led it to announce it would close 48 shops and axe 4,000 jobs in July.

Boots, which has 2,600 UK stores, had already planned to close 140 last year as part of a long-term plan.

The lack of diversity in Britain’s boardrooms came into focus following the Black Lives Matter protests last year.

More than a third of Britain’s largest companies do not have a black or minority ethnic board member, according to a report by Government diversity tsar Sir John Parker.