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Taking Walgreens Private for $70 Billion Is Pricey Even for KKR

The drugstore chain could use the cash to revamp operations, but it would be saddled with significant debt.
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Photo illustration: 731; Photo: Getty Images

Stefano Pessina, chief executive officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., has long had an affinity for private equity. In 2007 he teamed up with the buyout giant KKR & Co. to take Britain’s biggest pharmacy chain, Alliance Boots Plc, private. That move, followed by further deals to fold it into U.S.-based Walgreens, was the genesis of the multinational drugstore company as it’s known today. Now, KKR and Pessina might be teaming up again—though many doubt a deal is possible this time around.

KKR formally approached Walgreens in November about taking the company private in what could be the biggest leveraged buyout in history. Pessina, Walgreens’ largest shareholder with a 16.25% stake valued at about $9 billion, is expected to be the crucial player in any deal.