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The Associated Press April 9, 2010, 1:17PM ET

Walgreen completes deal for Duane Reade stores

Walgreen Co. officially became the largest drugstore operator in New York City Friday, as the company completed its $623 million buyout of the Duane Reade chain.

The acquisition gives Walgreen 258 additional stores in the metropolitan area, along with two distribution centers and Duane Reade's headquarters. Duane Reade has more metro New York City locations than any other drugstore chain. Walgreen is the largest U.S. chain, but with 70 stores in the area, it had been the third-largest player in the nation's biggest market.

The deal was announced in February. Walgreen said it will promptly pay back the $457 million in debt held by Duane Reade Holdings Inc. The chain was bought in 2004 by a group including affiliates of Oak Hill Capital Partners. Duane Reade chairman and CEO John Lederer will continue to lead the business in New York.

Walgreen said it will look for ways to combine its brand with Duane Reade's, but said its current plan is to keep using the Duane Reade name on those stores. Duane Reade had $1.8 billion in sales in 2009.

Walgreen, of Deerfield, Ill., now has almost 7,500 stores around the country. The company's shares lost 3 cents to $36.82 in afternoon trading.

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