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CNO says CEO Prieur to retire, to be replaced by CFO

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Jim Prieur will retire as CEO of CNO Financial Group Inc. on Sept. 30 and will replaced by the company’s chief financial officer, Ed Bonach, the company announced Wednesday.

CNO, a Carmel-based life and health insurer, will launch a search to hire a CFO to replace Bonach.

Prieur, 60, became CNO’s chief in September 2006, when it was known as Conseco Inc., leaving a job as the No. 2 executive at Toronto-based Sun Life Financial Inc. He has led CNO through multiple rounds of restructuring and debt-reduction, during which its stock price swooned.

The company has returned to firm footing, with nine straight profitable quarters. The stock price has risen 18 percent so far this year, closing at $8.02 on Wednesday, before the retirement announcement was made.

But the value of CNO’s stock is still more than 60 percent below where it was when Prieur arrived.

"After five successful years rebuilding and recapitalizing CNO, and with the company well positioned to pursue the underserved but fast-growing senior and middle-income market, it is the appropriate time for the company to prepare for its future and continued success under new leadership," Prieur said in a prepared statement.

CNO also said it is promoting Scott Perry, the head of its largest subsidiary, Bankers Life, to be chief operating officer of the entire company. However, Perry, 48, will retain his duties overseeing Banker, which is based in Chicago.

Bonach, 57, came to CNO in 2007 from Vermont-based National Life Group, where he was also chief financial officer. He also served as chief financial officer for Minneapolis-based Allianz Life as part of his 23-year career there. Bonach was named one of the area's top CFOs in 2010 as part of IBJ's annual CFO of the Year program. (A video interview with Bonach is posted below.)

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