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UnitedHealth Taps Former GlaxoSmithKline Exec to Lead Optum

March 14, 2018
by Heather Landi
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UnitedHealth Group, based in Minneapolis, has named Andrew Witty, the former CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, as the new chief executive of Optum, the insurance company’s health services and technology business.

The company also said in a statement that current Optum CEO and UnitedHealth vice chair, Larry C. Renfro, will now lead UnitedHealth Group’s enterprise growth efforts and Optum’s next-generation investment initiatives through an expanded Optum Ventures.

Witty’s position as Optum CEO is effective July 1, 2018. Witty is the former chief executive officer of GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) and has served as a member of the UnitedHealth Group board of directors since August 2017.  Witty is currently the outgoing Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, a British public research university, and serves on the Singapore Economic Development Board International Advisory Committee and as an Advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He joined GSK in 1985 and served as CEO and a director of GSK from 2008 until 2017.

According to company officials, Renfro will help accelerate the company’s innovation capacities and reach as managing partner of Optum Ventures, a series of domestic and international funds, including a new, $100 million Global Fund, dedicated to emerging and advanced technology, data analytics and health care services companies with transformative capabilities to make health care better for everyone. The new global fund complements the domestic Optum Ventures fund announced in November 2017; together they have total investment commitments of up to $600 million.

Renfro joined UnitedHealth Group in 2009 as CEO for the Public and Seniors Market Group before becoming CEO of Optum in 2011 and also vice chair in 2014.

“Our growth and diversification across UnitedHealth Group continue to advance at a strong pace, driven in part by well-recognized and growing depth in executive leadership. At Optum, Larry Renfro and his team have built a $100 billion, innovative and groundbreaking organization that is truly helping make the health system work better for everyone while helping to transform health care,” David S. Wichmann, chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Group, said in a statement.

Wichmann said Witty brings more than “three decades of health care system strategic thinking and knowledge from around the globe, a record of fostering innovation and partnerships, seasoned leadership of complex organizations and a commitment to improving care delivery.”

“Critically, he has deep experience with how data and analytics and new technologies can be used to improve patient outcomes, better serve consumers, lower costs and drive value across the system – which is at the heart of Optum’s work to shape health care for the better. Andrew’s experience and familiarity with the business and our leaders through his service on our board will make this a seamless transition,” Wichmann said.

Witty said in a statement, “With a proven strategy, great leadership and top talent, Optum has the unique opportunity to continue improving the health care experience, outcomes and value people receive in the U.S. and globally, and I am honored to participate in that mission – especially having come to know the leaders of the enterprise through my work as a director. In many ways, even with all its accomplishments, Optum feels as though it is just getting started.”

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