Aetna Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Rowe, 61, will retire to become a consultant for the health insurance giant at the end of 2006 when his employment contract expires. As of Feb. 14, Aetna President Ronald Williams, 56, will become CEO and take over management responsibility from Rowe, who will trade in his chairman title for executive chairman through the remainder of his contract. Aetna, Hartford, Conn., said Rowe, as executive chairman of the board, will "continue to be an active, full-time executive" until his retirement and then be hired as a consultant to allow the company to tap into his "significant expertise on specific business issues related to health."
Rowe said in a company news release that it was his decision to initiate retirement discussions with the board. "By any measure, Aetna has exceeded the expectations of all our constituents," Rowe said, pointing to a market value that has climbed more than $23 billion since a low in 2001. Rowe, a physician, became CEO of the 14.7 million-member insurer in December 2000 after having served as head of Mount Sinai NYU Health, New York. Williams joined Aetna as executive vice president and chief of health operations in March 2001 and became president in May 2002. Rowe said Williams "has been a full partner with me in leading the Aetna turnaround and returning the company to profitable growth. The board of directors is very confident that Ron is the right person to lead the company to our next goal of attaining industry leadership." -- by Michael Romano