WellPoint appoints woman to succeed CEO

From the Associated Press

WellPoint Inc., the nation’s largest health insurer, surprised some analysts with its choice for a new CEO: a lesser-known executive who will become the highest-ranking woman in the Fortune 500.

Angela F. Braly, a lawyer with deal-making experience and public-policy savvy, was chosen to take over when Chief Executive Larry Glasscock retires June 1. Glasscock, 58, announced his retirement Monday, citing family reasons the company would not elaborate on. He will remain nonexecutive chairman.

WellPoint ranked 38th in the 2006 Fortune 500 list of the largest U.S. companies. The next highest company with a female leader is No. 56 Archer Daniels Midland Co., headed by Patricia A. Woertz.

Braly, currently a WellPoint executive vice president, said she might bring “great perspective” to the new role because of her gender. She noted that women make up 77% of WellPoint’s 42,000 employees and more than half of its management ranks.


“What we know at WellPoint is that 70% of the healthcare decisions are made by women, so I think it’s a very natural place for me to be, both as a businesswoman and as a consumer of healthcare for my family,” said Braly, who is married and has three school-age children.

WellPoint shares fell 37 cents to $81.13. They are still near the higher end of their 52-week range of $65.50 to $84.15.

The Indianapolis-based company’s choice came as a “major shock” to CIBC World Markets analyst Carl McDonald.

“We want to emphasize that our issue is not with Braly herself, as she very well could be the perfect person for the role,” McDonald wrote. “We just don’t know her, and neither does the market.”

There are 10 female CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies, including those at RadioShack Corp., Avon Products Inc. and Xerox Corp.

Braly, 45, joined WellPoint in 2005. Before that, she was president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri. Glasscock credited Braly with that company’s membership and profitability growth.