Ex-Aetna CEO Bertolini to depart CVS' board

The front entrance of a CVS Pharmacy
CVS Health announced a major departure from its board of directors on Monday. (Eric Glenn/Shutterstock.com)

CVS Health announced Monday that it would trim its board of directors from 16 members to 13 with the notable exit of former Aetna chief Mark Bertolini, who says he's being pushed out.

Bertolini joined CVS' board as part of the healthcare giant's acquisition of Aetna, which closed in November of 2018. In an announcement, CVS said in an announcement that Bertolini will exit the board after the company's annual shareholder meeting "following the successful integration of the Aetna business."

CVS Spokesperson T.J. Crawford said in a statement to FierceHealthcare that the board felt the timing was appropriate.

"With the bulk of the integration behind us and the Aetna business performing strongly, the board felt it was the right time for Mark to focus on his other endeavors," Crawford said.

RELATED: CVS closes $69B acquisition of Aetna in a 'transformative moment' for the industry

Bertolini disputed that claim in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, saying that integration was "far from over" and he was willing to stay on at CVS. He also indicated that his relationship with CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo may be fractious.

"There’s always going to be a natural tension between the current CEO and the former CEO in any discussions regarding how you move the strategy forward," Bertolini said. "He’s the guy in the seat, I’m not.”

In a statement, board chair David Dorman said the board has the "utmost confidence" in existing leadership and thanked Bertolini for his role in the Aetna integration.

There is not yet a public date announced for the shareholders meeting, but CVS held its 2019 meeting in May. CVS noted when the acquisition was announced in December 2017 that Bertolini would join the company's board, but an exit for him was not listed at the time. 

CVS said Monday that cutting its board down to 13 members would "further align with corporate governance best practices." In addition to Bertolini, Richard "Dick" Swift and Richard Bracker will leave at the meeting.