MetLife Promotes Two Senior Executives as Future CEO Succession Race Takes Shape

By Leslie Scism Features Dow Jones Newswires

MetLife Inc. Chief Executive Steven Kandarian widened the circle of potential candidates to succeed him, giving two senior executives significant additional responsibilities, the company said Thursday.

Continue Reading Below

Mr. Kandarian has no plans to retire even though he is at MetLife's customary retirement age of 65. Last year, the company's board waived its age policy indefinitely so he could stay on. The board said at the time it wanted him to continue as CEO while the nation's biggest life insurer spins off a large chunk of its U.S. life-insurance operations.

In Thursday's move, MetLife named Michel Khalaf, 53 years old, president of its U.S. business. Mr. Khalaf will retain his role as president of the company's European, Middle East and African operations.

Executive Vice President Marty Lippert, 57, who is responsible for MetLife's technology, customer service and some other operational matters, will now also assume responsibility for MetLife Holdings. That unit holds blocks of business in which the company has discontinued new sales.

At least three other executives at MetLife are in potential position to be promoted to MetLife's top job, according to executive recruiters and analysts. Those are Chief Investment Officer Steven J. Goulart, Chief Financial Officer John C.R. Hele, and Christopher G. Townsend, who is president of the company's large Asia region.

Typically, corporate boards also look at outside candidates for the CEO spot.

Continue Reading Below

MetLife had planned to complete its divestiture by June 30, but is behind schedule. The company is expected to obtain approval from Delaware insurance regulators -- the lead state insurance department in the matter -- in early July, according to Evercore ISI analyst Thomas Gallagher. It is unclear how soon the spinoff would occur once that approval is in hand.

The spinoff will move the historic core of the nearly 150-year-old company -- selling life insurance to U.S. households -- into a new company named Brighthouse Financial. The remaining MetLife will be focused on group life-insurance and other benefits sold to employers, its international network of life-insurance operations and some other businesses.

Mr. Khalaf joined MetLife in 2010 through the company's acquisition of an international network of life-insurance companies from American International Group Inc.

Prior to joining MetLife in 2011, Mr. Lippert was a senior executive at Citigroup and other banks.

Mr. Kandarian has been president and CEO since May 2011 and added the title of chairman in January 2012. He joined MetLife in 2005 as its investment chief.

MetLife also said Thursday it has named Ramy Tadros as chief risk officer. Mr. Tadros had run the insurance practice at consultancy Oliver Wyman. Two long-serving MetLife executives are retiring: Maria Morris, who has been interim head of the U.S. business, and Stan Talbi, current chief risk officer.

Write to Leslie Scism at leslie.scism@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 15, 2017 08:24 ET (12:24 GMT)