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Rite Aid CEO out amid ongoing losses

Heyward Donigan has departed as CEO of Rite Aid.

Rite Aid Corp. has appointed a board member as interim chief executive following the departure of Heyward Donigan.

The pharmacy retailer named Elizabeth (“Busy”) Burr as interim CEO, effective immediately. Her appointment follows Heyward Donigan’s departure from the company as president, CEO and board member. Rite Aid has started a search to identify a permanent CEO and has retained an executive search firm.

Donigan, was tapped as Rite Aid CEO in August 2019, becoming the second female chief executive in the chain’s history. She succeeded John Standley who, as planned, stepped down from his role in connection with her appointment.  Before joining Rite Aid, Donigan served as president and CEO of Sapphire Digital (formerly Vitals), which designs and develops omnichannel platforms that help consumers choose their best fit healthcare providers.

Donigan's departure comes as Rite Aid has struggled to compete with pharmacy rivals CVS Health and Walgreens, both of which has made extensive inroads into the broader field of health care. In December, Rite Aid reported a third-quarter net loss of $67.1 billion and revenues of $6.08 billion, down from $6.23 billion in the year-ago quarter.

“As the company continues its efforts to enhance its competitive position in this dynamic environment, the board determined and Heyward agreed that now is the right time to identify the next leader of the business,” stated Rite Aid chairman Bruce Bodaken. “With a deep understanding of the industry and our strategy, the board was unanimous in its belief that Busy is highly qualified to serve as interim CEO while the board conducts a search for a permanent successor.”

Busy Burr

Most recently, Burr served as president and chief commercial officer of Carrot Inc., leading the team focused on bringing the company’s digital health solutions to market previously. Prior to that, Burr served as the chief innovation officer and VP of healthcare trend and innovation at for-profit health insurance giant Humana, responsible for driving the design, build and adoption of new product platforms in digital health, provider experience, and telemedicine.  She also founded Humana’s strategic investing practice, Humana Health Ventures.

Prior to joining Humana in 2015, Burr was managing director of Citi Ventures and led large-scale business transformation efforts as the global head of Citi’s Business Incubation Function-DesignWorks.  

In other roles, she served as CMO and global head of communications of the global technology group at Credit Suisse First Boston. Earlier in her career, Burr spent seven years in investment banking at Morgan Stanley and previously served as VP of global brand management at Gap Inc.  

“Having served as a director since 2019, I have great respect for the important role Rite Aid plays as a full-service pharmacy improving health outcomes for millions of Americans,” stated Burr. “I will work with the board and management team to realize our vast potential while supporting our thousands of pharmacists and team members who are focused every day on meeting the needs of our communities and customers.”

Rite Aid reaffirmed its fiscal year 2023 guidance for total revenues between $23.7 billion and $24.0 billion, net loss between $584 million and $551 million. Adjusted EBITDA between $410 million and $440 million and capital expenditures of approximately $225 million.

The company continues to expect to generate positive free cash flow in fiscal 2023.

“On behalf of the entire board, I want to thank Heyward for her contributions and service to Rite Aid, particularly her efforts in helping to lead Rite Aid throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” stated Bodaken. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”

Rite Aid operates more than 2,300 retail pharmacy locations across 17 states. It also operates pharmacy benefits company Elixir.

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