Just two months after firing former CEO Kenneth Melani amid allegations of lying and misconduct, Highmark has named William Winkenwerder as its new chief executive.
Winkenwerder most recently was chairman and CEO of consulting firm Winkenwerder Company, which advises healthcare companies. He has had a lengthy career in the healthcare industry, including senior positions at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Kaiser Permanente. Winkenwerder also worked in the U.S. Department of Defense, overseeing the Military Health System's personnel and serving as principal medical adviser to Secretaries of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, reported the Pittsburgh Business Times.
Highmark's board of directors worked fast to name Melani's successor because its $475 million acquisition of West Penn Allegheny Health System could have been delayed if it didn't demonstrate its upper level management team is stable. The board allegedly voted on naming Winkenwerder as CEO with little input from management, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
As the new Highmark CEO, Winkenwerder said that his first priority is working with the company's management team to better understand the business, the marketplace and its performance. He also plans to meet immediately with West Penn's management team, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
"The company is well capitalized with a large reserve fund, but we will be prudent stewards of those funds and of the business," Winkenwerder said. "We are on a pathway with some strategies, and I am in support of those strategies, and we will learn more as those strategies unfold."