Healthcare industry veteran David Jones plans to retire as chairman of insurance giant Humana after the annual shareholder meeting April 26, tying up nearly 44 years with the company.
Jones, 73, has remained chairman since co-founding the Louisville, Ky.-based company as a local nursing-home chain in 1961. He also served as chief executive officer until 1997, when he turned over the reins to Gregory Wolf. Wolf was succeeded by Humana's current president and CEO, Michael McCallister, in 2000.
Company policy requires board members to step down at the annual shareholder meeting after their 73rd birthday. A new chairman will be elected at a meeting also scheduled for April 26, Humana said.
"David Jones' visionary leadership and commitment to excellence set the tone from the beginning for Humana's extended record of growth and success," McCallister said in a news release.
Jones, a former lawyer, and his late partner, Wendell Cherry, started what would become Humana as Extendicare, which grew to encompass eight facilities by 1967.
They quickly moved into the more lucrative hospital business, acquiring Medical Center Hospital, Huntsville, Ala., the following year. By 1970, they owned nine other hospitals. In 1972, the company sold off its nursing homes and a year later changed its name to Humana.
By the early 1980s, Humana had become the world's largest hospital chain, owning more than 80 hospitals in the U.S. and abroad. And in 1984, it entered the HMO industry.
Less than a decade later, Jones spun off the company's hospital business as Galen Healthcare, which merged with then-Columbia Hospital Corp. in 1993. Humana continued to expand, snapping up HMOs in Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Chicago and Washington.
Humana weathered a difficult stretch in the 1990s-which included a failed merger, a class-action lawsuit, an investigation into alleged overbilling and a management shake-up.
Humana covers 7 million members in 15 states and Puerto Rico.