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UPDATE: Glasscock retirement marks WellPoint's maturation

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Larry Glasscock’s retirement as chairman of WellPoint Inc. marks a maturation in his successor and in the company as a whole.

WellPoint said Wednesday that Glasscock, 61, will step down March 1 as CEO Angela Braly, 48, takes over leadership of the Indianapolis company’s board. She replaced Glasscock as CEO on June 1, 2007 after Glasscock stepped aside for undisclosed "family reasons."

"Angela Braly has shown she is focused on the future of the company and positioning them to do well in whatever the post-reform environment looks like," Edward Jones analyst Steve Shubitz told the Associated Press.

One thing Braly is considering is a dividend for WellPoint shareholders. Bloomberg News called that a sign that WellPoint and its industry peers are exiting their life as growth stocks.

WellPoint’s board is “very committed to continuing to have the discussion about the right way to return capital to shareholders, and dividends are very much a part of that conversation as well,” Braly said on a Jan. 27 conference call with analysts.

Braly also reiterated WellPoint's interest in mergers, but the company has not acquired another health insurance plan since early 2006.

Glasscock’s tenure at WellPoint was all about growth. When he arrived at what was then called Anthem Inc. in 1998, the company owned Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurance plans in four states. It now has Blues plans in 14 states and is the nation's second-largest health insurer, insuring 33.7 million Americans.

After he became CEO in October 1999, Glasscock oversaw a 10-fold increase in the company’s revenue and a more than six-fold increase in the number of people it insures. He also led the company’s 2001 initial public offering and its subsequent price run-up of more than 250 percent.

The biggest merger Glasscock engineered was Anthem's 2004 purchase of California-based WellPoint Health Networks Inc. The merged company then took the name WellPoint Inc. Glasscock became chairman of WellPoint in 2005.

“At this point, my work here is accomplished,” Glasscock said in a statement, “and there is one individual most capable of leading WellPoint into the future: Angela Braly.”

As chairman, Glasscock was paid nearly $983,000 in 2008, the most recent year for which salary data is available. Braly's total compensation was $9.8 million.

WellPoint reported revenue of $65 billion in 2009. Shares were trading at $64.02 in late morning, down about $1 from Tuesday's close.

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