Ornella Barra

Co-Chief Operating Officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, 
Ornella Barra, Chief Executive, Wholesale and Brands, Alliance Boots

Born in Italy, in Chiavari near Genoa, now of Monegasque nationality, Ornella graduated from the University of Genoa with a degree in pharmacy and embarked on a career in the healthcare sector. She started out as a pharmacist, first managing and then setting up her own pharmacy. In 1984 she founded the pharmaceutical wholesaler Di Pharma, which was taken over in 1986 by Alleanza Salute Italia.

Ornella was appointed Managing Director and later Chairman of Alleanza Salute Italia, which would soon become Italy’s leading pharmaceutical wholesaler operating nationwide. In 1990, she joined the board of Alliance Santé, an international pharmaceutical company. Ornella was involved in establishing this company, following a series of acquisitions in France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Morocco.

In 1997, Ornella was appointed as board member and Executive Director of Alliance UniChem Plc. after a merger between UniChem and Alliance Santé. In 2006, Alliance UniChem Plc. and the Boots Group PLC, then merged, forming Alliance Boots, a FTSE100 company on the London Stock Exchange. Ornella was appointed as Board member and Wholesale & Commercial Affairs Director of the new group, which was subsequently taken over by AB Acquisitions Limited (Stefano Pessina and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, KKR) in June 2007. At that point, Ornella was Chief Executive, Pharmaceutical Wholesale Division of Alliance Boots and Chairman of the social responsibilities committee.   In September 2013, Ornella became Chief Executive, Wholesale and Brands of Alliance Boots, whereby she continued to oversee the Pharmaceutical Wholesale Division, International Health & Beauty and Brands and the Group’s corporate social responsibility agenda.

Ornella Barra was appointed Co-Chief Operating Officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance in June 2016 and her extended areas of responsibility include:

  • Retail Pharmacy International businesses outside the UK and Republic of Ireland.

  • Global Brands, which includes a portfolio of highly regarded and long-established brands.

  • Global commercial activities and global supply chain relations, across both pharmaceuticals and consumer.

  • Pharmaceutical Wholesale Division of WBA, operating mainly as Alliance Healthcare. It is one of the largest global pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution networks in the world, present in more than 20* countries with over 390* distribution centers. 

  • Global Human Resources across the Company.

  • Business services, including the supply chain in the UK, as well as upstream and downstream added value services.

  • Corporate social responsibility activities for the whole enterprise.

  • Global Communications and Corporate Affairs, covering divisional, business and brand communications, alongside financial communications, crisis management, philanthropy and government relations.

  • The company’s IT function.

In September 2016, Fortune magazine published its annual “International Most Powerful Women in Business” list (this year Fortune has ranked the 50 Most Powerful Women based outside the USA) in which Ornella was featured in tenth position. Ornella has been ranked in the top 15 of the list every year since 2010.

Walgreens Boots Alliance is the first global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing enterprise. The Company was created through the combination of Walgreens and Alliance Boots in December 2014, bringing together two leading companies with iconic brands, complementary geographic footprints, shared values and a heritage of trusted health care services through pharmaceutical wholesaling and community pharmacy care, dating back more than 100 years.

Walgreens Boots Alliance is the largest retail pharmacy, health and daily living destination across the USA and Europe. Walgreens Boots Alliance and the companies in which it has equity method investments together have a presence in more than 25* countries and employ more than 400,000* people. The company is a global leader in pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing retail and, together with the companies in which it has equity method investments, has over 13,200* stores in 11* countries as well as one of the largest global pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution networks, with over 390* distribution centers delivering to more than 230,000** pharmacies, doctors, health centers and hospitals each year in more than 20* countries. In addition, Walgreens Boots Alliance is one of the world’s largest purchasers of prescription drugs and many other health and wellbeing products.

Walgreens Boots Alliance has a long-term partnership with AmerisourceBergen, one of the largest global pharmaceutical sourcing and distribution services companies. In August 2016, Walgreens Boots Alliance exercised second tranche of warrants to purchase AmerisourceBergen common stock, reaching almost 24% of share ownership. The net earnings attributable to this investment are classified within the operating income of the company’s Pharmaceutical Wholesale segment ran by Ornella Barra. In January 2015, Ornella was appointed as non-independent member of the Board of Directors of AmerisourceBergen.  

The role of the pharmacy in Ornella Barra's career

Throughout her career, Ornella has been greatly committed to the support and development of the pharmacist profession. She was also instrumental to the creation of the European Pharmacists Forum (EPF) in 1999. Ten countries are now represented within the Forum: UK, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Turkey, Switzerland and Germany. The main aim of the EPF is to facilitate the ongoing exchange of ideas between pharmacists and dialogue with the public authorities and manufacturers and to promote the idea of a “community pharmacy”.

A committed believer in the importance of education for the pharmacist profession, Ornella is Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham School of Pharmacy. As a lecturer, she teaches students on the four-year pharmacy degree course (MPharm). Ornella also advises the University of Nottingham on the development of the MPharm degree course itself.

In late 2012, Ornella was awarded a Doctor of Science honorary degree from the University of Nottingham to recognise her support of the pharmacy profession and her commitment to the University.

In December 2016, Ornella received an honorary degree in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technology from University of Urbino, to recognize her support of the pharmacy profession and her commitment to the University.

She also sponsors a five-year degree course in pharmacy at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. The course is taught in English and is run in association with the School of Pharmacy at the University of Nottingham.

Community involvement

Ornella is chair of the Walgreens Boots Alliance Social Responsibility Meeting. In this role, she oversees all corporate social responsibility activities across the Company and will be pivotal in building a strong platform for this agenda to thrive across Walgreen Boots Alliance.

In October 2016 the United Nations Foundation awarded its Global Leadership Award to Walgreens Boots Alliance for its commitment to the United Nations Foundation's Sustainable Development Goals through its support for wellbeing around the world. As the chair of the Walgreens Boots Alliance Social Responsibility Meeting, Ornella Barra accepted the award on behalf of the Company.

Previously, Ornella chaired the Alliance Boots Social Responsibilities Committee, where she furthered the pace and scope of the Group’s commitment to CSR.  Among other initiatives, Ornella was heavily involved in Alliance Boots charity partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support in the UK and the Group’s pan-European partnership with the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Charitable Trust (EORTC Charitable trust).

As Chairman, she was personally involved in deciding the Group's policies on the environment, health and safety, diversity and equal opportunities, interethnic relations, disabled employment, charity and ethics.

In September 2014, Ornella was appointed as the first International Ambassador for Business in the Community (BITC), having already been for some years a member of BITC International leadership team. BITC is an international association based in London and dedicated to corporate social responsibility, and also one of ‘The Prince’s Charities’, a group of not-for-profit organisations of which HRH The Prince of Wales is President. 

External organisations

Between 2003 and 2009, Ornella held the office of President of the Italian Pharmaceutical Wholesalers Association (ADF), of which she is currently vice president.

Ornella sits on the board of directors of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW), of which she was named Chairman in October 2014.

In 2002 Ornella received the William L. Ford prize from the IFPW for her vital contribution to the development of the healthcare sector.

Ornella is also a member of the board of ECR Europe (Efficient Consumer Response).

In April 2013, Ornella Barra has been appointed to the Board of Directors of Generali, one of the most significant players in the global insurance and financial products market.

* As of 31 August 2016, using publicly available information for AmerisourceBergen.

** For 12 months ending 31 August 2016, using publicly available information for AmerisourceBergen