Stephen Hemsley Stepping Down as CEO of UnitedHealth in September
After leading the world’s largest health insurer UnitedHealth Group for 11 years, chief executive Stephen Hemsley announced he would step down at the end of August and become executive chairman of the Minnetonka-based company’s board.
“This is the right time for this transition to take place, as the company is performing strongly and has a positive outlook for the foreseeable future,” 65-year-old Hemsley said in a statement.
After joining UnitedHealth in June 1997, Hemsley quickly rose through the ranks, becoming president and chief operating officer after just two years at the organization. Under Hemsley’s leadership, UnitedHealth flourished as its Medicare Advantage and Optum health services businesses grew rapidly.
In 2006, when Hemsley took over UnitedHealth, annual revenue totaled about $71.5 billion. Over the course of a decade as CEO, Hemsley pushed the company to more than double its revenue, reaching nearly $185 billion in 2016.
Taking his place as CEO officially on September 1 will be Dave Wichmann, president of UnitedHealth.
“With nearly 20 years of service to the company, Dave has the business and leadership skills, enterprise knowledge and support, broad health care experience, and deep expertise in areas that are critical to our future — especially growth-oriented technology, operations and global markets,” Hemsley said. “He is the right person to lead UnitedHealth Group through the continuing evolution of health care.”
Fifty-four-year-old Wichmann joined UnitedHealth in 1998, just a year after Hemsley. From 2011 to mid-2016, he was the company’s chief financial officer before taking over as president.
UnitedHealth credits Wichmann for managing a plethora of its business activities, ranging from its benefits business, mergers and acquisitions and innovation and diversification efforts. “Wichmann currently leads the company’s activities in Brazil, among other global markets, experience essential for building out the ‘third leg’ of UnitedHealth Group’s long-term growth strategy,” the company said in its release.
Richard Burke, who was the chairman of UnitedHealth’s board, will transition into the role of lead independent director when Hemsley takes the top spot at the start of September. In prepared remarks, Burke said, “Today’s action is the culmination of almost four years of discussion, careful planning, leadership development and execution. Dave Wichmann was one of Steve Hemsley’s first hires at our company and has been preparing for the CEO role for many years.”
In a statement, Wichmann called his promotion to the head of UnitedHealth a “distinct yet humbling honor.”
“We are fortunate to have an exceptional organization, a deep and talented leadership team, and highly dedicated people,” he said. “Health care will continue to change, but this is an enterprise built for change: innovative, adaptable and consumer-centric.”