Boots executive Gourlay in talks to join Holland & Barrett owner LetterOne

Business

A former executive at the owner of Boots is in discussions about joining the board of the Russia-linked vehicle which owns Holland & Barrett.

Sky News has learnt that Alex Gourlay, who stepped down as co-chief operating officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance earlier this year, is in advanced talks to become a non-executive director of LetterOne.

City sources said on Monday that a formal agreement had yet to be reached but that Mr Gourlay was likely to be one of several new board members whose appointments would bolster corporate governance at LetterOne.

The company is chaired by Lord Davies of Abersoch, the former trade minister and erstwhile boss of Standard Chartered, the emerging markets bank.

Launched in 2013, LetterOne was founded by a group of businessmen with links to Russia, including Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven.

LetterOne itself has not been sanctioned over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Mr Fridman and Mr Aven have been targeted by UK and European Union sanctions.

The two men’s shareholdings in LetterOne have been frozen, meaning they cannot receive dividend income from their stakes.

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If it goes ahead, Mr Gourlay’s appointment would be positively received by stakeholders in Holland & Barrett, although insiders said he would be joining LetterOne’s board rather than being directly involved in the health food chain’s management.

Last week, Sky News revealed that LetterOne had offered to buy back nearly £900m of Holland & Barrett’s debt in an effort to shore up its balance sheet.

Holland & Barrett, which trades from 800 stores in the UK and employs 8,000 people, has been owned by LetterOne since 2017.

In total, LetterOne-owned companies employ well over 100,000 people.

A LetterOne spokesman declined to comment.

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