UPDATE: Glasscock successor to be top female CEO

The surprise announcement that Larry Glasscock is retiring as CEO of WellPoint Inc. paves the way for his successor, Angela F. Braly, to be the highest-ranking female executive in corporate America.

None of the 11 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies run larger businesses, based on revenue, than WellPoint, which has $58 billion in annual sales. The largest company with a female CEO is Illinois-based Archer Daniels Midland, which ranks 56th. WellPoint is 38th.

WellPoint today said Braly, 45, will succeed Glasscock, 58, as CEO and president June 1. Glasscock said he was retiring “for family reasons,” but will remain chairman of the company’s board.

The company would not elaborate on the family issues that led him to step down from day-to-day responsibilities at the 42,000-employee company.

Braly, currently a WellPoint executive vice president, is an attorney by training. She oversees WellPoint’s large Medicare claims processing business, the federal employees’ health benefits business, public policy development, government relations, legal affairs, marketing, and social responsibility initiatives.

She has served as general counsel and chief public affairs officer since April 2005. Previously, she was president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri.

WellPoint securities filings do not list Braly as one of the company’s top five executives. And during a conference call this morning, Wall Street analysts questioned why the company’s board passed over other internal candidates, such as Chief Financial Officer Dave Colby or John Watts, WellPoint’s executive vice president over national accounts.

Glasscock called Braly “one of my most trusted and valued colleagues,” and said she brings a “wealth of intellect, business experience (and) vision.”

Braly will receive a salary of $1.1 million and be eligible for an annual incentive bonus of 120 percent of her salary, WellPoint reported in a securities filing. She also will be eligible to receive other compensation tied to the company’s performance.

Glasscock emphasized he “is not leaving the company" and has no plans to leave as board chairman.

“I love this company. I love what we stand for. I’m not going away. I’m going to be as active as I can be,” said Glasscock, who has been married to his wife, Lee, since he was in college. They have two children.

When asked by analysts whether she would change WellPoint’s strategy, Braly promised continuity.

“You’re going to continue to see a lot of momentum around empowering consumers, producing the best experience you can have in health care, that’s rich in information,” said Braly, who name is pronounced “brawl-ee.”

Braly also promised that acquisitions would continue to be part of WellPoint’s growth strategy. “We’re going to continue to consider those opportunities,” she said.

The 2004 merger of Indianapolis-based Anthem Inc. with California-based WellPoint Health Networks, spearheaded by Glasscock, created the largest health insurer in the country.

Glasscock has served as CEO and president since 1999 and chairman since November 2005. Under his leadership, the company grew from $6 billion in revenue to more than $60 billion in revenue.

In a written statement, Glasscock said: "For family reasons, it is important for me to retire from the day-to-day leadership of the company at this time."

WellPoint shares late this morning were trading at $80.94, down 56 cents.

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