UNH Names Andrew Witty CEO

The move to put Witty in charge of the healthcare giant is described as "abrupt."

In a move that caught many off guard, UnitedHealth Group announced yesterday that Andrew Witty is becoming CEO of the healthcare giant, succeeding David Wichmann in the company’s top job.

The Wall Street Journal described Witty’s elevation and Wichmann’s departure as “an abrupt move that came as a surprise to company executives and investors.”

But the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that analysts don’t anticipate major changes at the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based company under Witty’s leadership.

Witty’s promotion is one from within; until yesterday he was CEO of Optum, the fast-growing healthcare services subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. He had been named president of UnitedHealthGroup in November 2019.

Witty, 56, was named CEO of Optum in March 2018 after being CEO of GlaxoSmithKline from 2008 to 2017. He is sometimes referred to as Sir Andrew Witty because he was knighted in 2012 for his work as head of GlaxoSmithKline.

UnitedHealth Group also announced yesterday that Dirk McMahon, CEO of UnitedHealthcare, the company’s insurance subsidiary, is moving up to be overall company's president and COO.

UnitedHealth Group had revenues of about $257 billion in 2020 and has projected that its 2021 revenues would be between $277 billion and $280 billion.

Wichmann will continue in a transition period through March, according to the Star Tribune. In a memo sent to employees, Wichmann called the news that he is stepping down "bittersweet," according to the newspaper.

The Journal reported that Wichmann mentioned getting challenging feedback when he spoke at an annual meeting of UnitedHealth Group’s top leaders recently but that there was no indication that he would be stepping down from the CEO position. On the other, the newspaper reported that Wichmann has “long been positioned” to succeed Hemsley’s as UnitedHealth’s board chair.