By Peter Frost
CHICAGO -- Greg Wasson gambled away a total of about $60 during the 2 1/2 years he lived in Las Vegas. All of it came while he was parked at some low-stakes slot machine, waiting for his out-of-town guests to wrap up their requisite casino visit.
Wasson, 53, says he doesn't have the stomach to gamble.
But since he rose to the top job at Walgreen Co. in 2009, he is earning a reputation for making big bets and taking risks.
First came the 2010 acquisition of the New York-based pharmacy chain Duane Reade Inc. for $1.1 billion, which at the time was the largest deal completed by the traditionally conservative drugstore operator.
In 2011, Wasson paid $429 million to buy Drugstore.com.
Late last year, he walked away from more than $5 billion in annual business tied to the pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts Holding Co. Voluntarily.
Walgreen's stock price suffered, but Wasson insists the decision was in the long-term interest of the company.
And on June 19, the nation's largest drugstore chain moved to expand beyond its North American footprint with a $6.7 billion cash-and-stock deal to acquire a 45 percent stake in the European pharmacy and health-and-beauty retailer Alliance Boots GmbH.
The deal, expected to close by Sept. 1, will create the world's largest buyer of prescription drugs, with a network of 11,000 stores in 12 countries.
It includes an option for Walgreen to take full control of the Swiss-based Alliance Boots in about three years for an additional $9.5 billion in cash and stock, and the assumption of the company's substantial debt.