UnitedHealth promotes CFO to president, forms office of CEO as part of executive changes

UnitedHealth announced several changes in its executive leadership Wednesday, including naming Chief Financial Officer David Wichmann as president.

The largest U.S. health insurer said Wichmann, 52, becomes company president immediately and will give up the CFO role in the next year to 18 months.

UnitedHealth also said Larry Renfro, 60, the CEO of its Optum information technology services business, will become vice chairman of the company.

Gail Boudreaux, CEO of the UnitedHealthcare commercial insurance business, is leaving the company, which is based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

UnitedHealth is also creating an office of the chief executive that will include CEO Stephen Hemsley, Refro and Wichmann, along with Marianne Short, its chief legal officer, and Ellen Wilson, who is in charge of human capital for the company.

Leerink Partners analyst Ana Gupte said Wichmann could become CEO of the company, particularly if the Optum technology services business is spun off into a separate company. She said Boudreaux's departure could reflect weak performance for health insurance unit, which has been showing some signs of improvement. Gupte rates UnitedHealth shares "Outperform" with a price target of $100.

Shares of UnitedHealth Group Inc. rose 5 cents to $95.74 in midday trading Wednesday.