Dona D. Young Retires From The Phoenix Companies Inc.

Dona D. Young retired Wednesday as chairman, president and chief executive of The Phoenix Companies Inc., leaving the 158-year-old Hartford company, which is struggling against daunting odds, in the hands of incoming CEO James D. Wehr.

Wehr, who has been senior executive vice president and chief investment officer, starts today as president, chief executive and a member of the board, as previously announced.

Young, 55, who had spent 29 years at Phoenix — six of them as CEO — retires with accumulated pension benefits that totaled $14.6 million as of Dec. 31. She will now serve as a consultant to Phoenix for one year for $300,000.

Young has said that her retirement was purely her decision. But at least some analysts and investors believe that she was finally pressured to leave after many years of turnaround efforts that ran into a meltdown of credit and equity markets and a deepening recession.

Phoenix has suffered investment losses and multiple ratings downgrades, which led to the loss of distributors, including its two largest — State Farm and National Life Group. Phoenix has moved to preserve capital by eliminating its shareholder dividend and announcing a cut of 25 percent of its workforce — 250 employees companywide.

Last week, Phoenix said that it is "well capitalized and does not face imminent capital needs."

Wehr is expected to continue with the revised strategy that Phoenix announced Feb. 27, shortly before State Farm suspended sales of Phoenix products. In the new game plan, Phoenix is trying to expand alternative retirement product offerings, develop new distribution channels for its main product offerings and find partners for private labeling ventures.

The company's stock closed up 9 cents at $1.95 a share Wednesday in a rising market.