WellPoint dismisses former interim-CEO Cannon

John Cannon, the man credited with righting the ship at WellPoint Inc., was terminated without cause this week, the company disclosed in a securities filing Friday morning.

The Indianapolis-based health insurer said Cannon will remain with the company until early March to help in the transition of his duties as general counsel and chief public affairs officer.

“We wish John well, and thank him for his many contributions to the organization during his tenure,” WellPoint spokeswoman Kristin Binns wrote in an email Friday. She declined to explain why Cannon was dismissed or to make Cannon available for comment.

Cannon, 60, served as WellPoint’s interim CEO from August 2012, when the company’s board ousted CEO Angela Braly under pressure from investors, until March 2013, when current CEO Joe Swedish took the helm.

Last year, Swedish dismissed Lori Beer, who was head of the specialty business unit at WellPoint. Also, after three WellPoint board members suddenly resigned shortly after Swedish became CEO, he appointed two of his friends to replace them.

During his seven-month tenure, Cannon reorganized WellPoint into four business units, completed the $4.9 billion acquisition and integration of Virginia-based Amerigroup Corp. and greatly improved what was described by WellPoint employees as a poor culture inside its corporate operation, which is headquartered on Indianapolis’ Monument Circle.

Wall Street analysts, and even Swedish, credited Cannon with getting WellPoint's earnings back on track before Swedish arrived.

Cannon was paid an annual salary of $625,000, according to WellPoint's 2013 proxy statement. His total compensation in 2012, the most recent figures available, was nearly $6.5 million, due in part to extra compensation given him for his tenure as interim CEO.

According to WellPoint’s 2013 proxy, Cannon is due to receive more than $4.9 million if he is terminated without cause.

Cannon was hired by Braly, who had also been WellPoint’s general counsel before becoming CEO, in late 2007. He came from Philadelphia-based Cigna Corp., where he worked for 19 years, ultimately becoming deputy general counsel.

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