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The Hartford's Liam McGee Steps Down As CEO

The Hartford will have a new CEO in July as Liam E. McGee steps down amid health problems, the company announced Monday.

McGee, 59, will remain as chairman of The Hartford Financial Services Group until the next annual shareholders' meeting.

Christopher J. Swift, 53, will be the property-casualty insurer's new CEO. Swift came to The Hartford in March 2010 as chief financial officer and executive vice president.

"I look forward to continuing as chairman to ensure a smooth transition, while also devoting additional time to continued recovery from a recent procedure related to my previously disclosed health issue," McGee said.

In January 2013, The Hartford revealed that McGee had a brain tumor surgically removed "over the holidays" and that he would receive low-dose chemotherapy. On Monday, The Hartford said McGee had a "follow-up procedure" related to the same health matter. The company declined to elaborate but did say Monday that McGee has been and remains "fully engaged as CEO of The Hartford, including presiding over an all employee meeting today."

Thomas A. Renyi, presiding director of The Hartford, said in a statement: "For nearly five years, Liam has successfully led The Hartford through a financial turnaround and strategic transformation that have resulted in a strong, focused company with attractive growth prospects. We are very appreciative for all he has accomplished on behalf of the company, and look forward to continuing to benefit from his guidance and experience in his role as chairman."

McGee came to The Hartford in the fall of 2009 as the company was struggling, having taken $3.4 billion in assistance from the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program, which it paid back with interest in the spring of 2010.

"I am proud of what our team has accomplished over the last five years, returning this iconic American company to a strong financial and competitive position and delivering value to shareholders," McGee said in a statement. "With our strategic transformation largely complete, it is the right time for the company and me personally to make this transition. I have great confidence in Chris, Doug and Beth to continue our progress."

The news set off a shake-up in The Hartford's leadership.

Swift, the new CEO, had worked in senior executive positions and finance roles at American International Group, or AIG. He started his career in public accounting at KPMG LLP, where he was appointed head of Global Insurance Industry Practice. He holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from Marquette University and is a certified public accountant.

"I am honored to be taking on the role of CEO and pleased to be partnering with Doug as the company's president, particularly given his industry expertise and success," Swift said in a statement. "I am excited to be working with Beth in her new capacity, as well as the entire Executive Leadership Team. We will remain focused on executing our strategy to deliver greater shareholder value by profitably growing our Property & Casualty, Group Benefits and Mutual Funds businesses, reducing the size and risk of our legacy annuity block and becoming a more effective and efficient organization."

Douglas G. Elliot, 53, has been named president. He came to The Hartford in April 2011 as president of Commercial Markets. Prior to that, he was president of Hartford Steam Boiler, a subsidiary of Munich Re, and was a senior adviser with Aspen Insurance Holdings. His career began at The Travelers Cos. where he started in accounting and worked up to the position of chief operating officer at Travelers Property-Casualty. He holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Connecticut. He also serves as chairman of the board of Hartford Hospital.

Beth A. Bombara, 46, will succeed Swift as chief financial officer. Bombara has been president of Talcott Resolution since July 2012, overseeing the company's legacy annuity business that is in runoff — meaning it has been discontinued. Bombara came to The Hartford in April 2004. Before that, she was a senior manager at Deloitte & Touche LLP in the audit practice. She was also a partner at Arthur Anderson LLP. She holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Bryant University and is a certified public accountant.

The Hartford declined to make McGee, Swift, Elliot or Bombara available for interviews.

Sterne Agee financial analyst John Nadel wrote in a note to investors, "While the changes are coming earlier than we believe would have otherwise been the case, we are nonetheless extremely confident in the executives taking on new roles and thus the announcement has no impact on our investment opinion."

"We expect HIG's strategy will be largely unaffected by this morning's announcement particularly given the named executives taking on new roles were intimately involved in helping to set the direction of the company over the past several years. In that respect, we think investors who believe the ultimate end game for HIG will shift as a result of the changes are likely to be proven wrong," Nadel wrote, referring to the company by its ticker symbol, HIG.

The company stock fell 7 cents, to $36.16, on the New York Stock Exchange Monday.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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