UnitedHealth Group CEO Wichmann to retire, Optum chief Witty named successor

The outside of UnitedHealth Group's headquarters
Optum CEO Andrew Witty has been named the new CEO of UnitedHealth Group. (UnitedHealth Group)

UnitedHealth Group announced Thursday that CEO David Wichmann is set to retire and named Optum chief Andrew Witty as his successor.

Wichmann has served as CEO of UnitedHealth since 2017 after first joining the company in 1998; he also was previously its chief financial officer.

Witty will take the title immediately and will join the company's board. Wichmann will continue with the company through March to aid with the transition, UnitedHealth said.

In addition, UnitedHealth Group said Dirk McMahon, CEO of UnitedHealthcare, will become the company's president and chief operating officer. The pair will join John Rex, chief financial officer, in the C-suite.

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“I am deeply honored to help guide one of the most consequential organizations in health care, where our responsibility is to execute flawlessly and deliver on our potential each day,” said Witty in a statement. “Together with my partners Dirk McMahon and John Rex, we have the right strategy, and tremendous people and capabilities throughout the organization to continue strengthening our efforts to improve the health system for everyone."

"Dave Wichmann is leaving a powerful legacy of service to others and commitment to innovation for us to build upon," Witty added.

Witty was named CEO of Optum in 2018 and was tapped as president of UnitedHealth Group in 2019. From April to December of 2020, he took an unpaid leave of absence from the company to assist the World Health Organization in its COVID-19 response.

McMahon has been CEO of UnitedHealthcare since 2019 and was previously president and chief operating officer at Optum. He was also the CEO of OptumRx, the company's pharmacy benefit manager arm, and has been with the company since 2003.

Stephen Hemsley, chairman of UnitedHealth Group's board of directors, praised the executive moves in a statement.

“As we have come to know firsthand during his time at UnitedHealth Group, Andrew Witty combines an extraordinary breadth and depth of health care experience, sophisticated strategic thinking and outstanding leadership development skills, making him uniquely well-positioned to help the company take the next steps on its steady path to grow and deliver for its shareholders and the customers and people we are privileged to serve,” he said.

UnitedHealth Group reaffirmed its 2021 financial guidance of between $17.75 and $18.25 in earnings per share alongside the news.