Over decades of dealmaking, Stefano Pessina turned his family’s Italian wholesale pharmaceutical business into the largest retail pharmacy in the U.S. and Europe.

Now filings show how a trio of tax havens support the significant wealth the chief executive officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. has amassed in that time.

Pessina, who lives in Monaco, dissolved a Luxembourg company that controlled his stake in Walgreens and replaced it with a new one. He controls that entity through another based in the Cayman Islands, according to filings last month.

He owns more than 16% of the Deerfield, Illinois-based retail pharmacy, which makes up the bulk of his $10.2 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“This is a perfect example of someone doing everything they can to use the tax haven regime to protect their wealth,” said Richard Murphy, professor of international political economy at City University of London.

Pessina declined to comment through a Walgreens spokesperson.

Complex Lengths
Pessina’s holding company in the Cayman Islands was set up more than a decade ago, but the extent of the structure has only recently become clearer.

The disclosures illustrate the lengths many of the world’s richest people go to manage and protect their wealth. Two years ago, four Chinese tycoons transferred more than $17 billion into family trusts with the ownership structures involving various Caribbean jurisdictions. Tina Green, who lives in Monaco and is married to U.K. retailer Philip Green, received a 1.2 billion pound ($1.5 billion) dividend from the couple’s holding company that went untaxed.

Pessina, 78, is a citizen and long-term resident of Monaco, where inhabitants don’t pay annual property, capital gains or council taxes. It’s a similar situation in the Cayman Islands, which has no direct tax regime. Last year, the International Monetary Fund singled out Luxembourg as a global center for “empty corporate shells” because of the amount of foreign investment.

There’s nothing empty about Pessina’s Luxembourg companies, with the one holding his stake reporting assets of more than 6 billion euros ($6.5 billion) at the end of 2018.

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