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UnitedHealth Group's Stephen Hemsley is stepping down as CEO

President David Wichmann will take over as CEO effective Sept. 1; Hemsley will become executive chairman of the board of directors.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

UnitedHealth Group's CEO Stephen Hemsley is stepping down.

David Wichmann, 54, president of UnitedHealth, will take over as CEO, effective September 1.

Hemsley will become executive chairman of the board of directors.

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Current board Chairman Richard Burke will become lead independent director, according to UnitedHealth.

Hemsley, 65, said this was the right time for the transition as the company is performing strongly and Wichmann has expertise in technology, operations and global markets, areas critical to the future of the company.

"He is the right person to lead UnitedHealth Group through the continuing evolution of healthcare," Hemsley said by statement.

Wichmann currently leads the company's activities in Brazil, among other global markets. UnitedHealth Group said this build-out represents the third leg of the company's long-term growth strategy.

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Wednesday's announcement was the culmination of close to four years of discussion and planning, Burke said.

The leadership changes are designed to ensure continuity.

[Also: UnitedHealth Group shuffles executive management, names new Optum leaders]

"Dave Wichmann was one of Steve Hemsley's first hires at our company and has been preparing for the CEO role for many years," Burke said.

Wichmann joined the company in 1998 and served as CFO from 2011 to 2016. As president since 2014, he has overseen the company's benefits business. He has directed enterprise-wide operations, technology efforts and integration and has led external development, mergers and acquisitions and partnerships.

"Healthcare will continue to change, but this is an enterprise built for change: innovative, adaptable and consumer-centric," Wichmann said.

Hemsley was named CEO and president of UnitedHealth Group in 2006. He previously served as president and chief operating officer, Hemsley joined the company in June 1997.

[Also: Secret weapon: UnitedHealth's Optum business is laying waste to old notions about how payers make money]

UnitedHealth Group's second quarter revenues grew 8 percent year-over-year, according to its second quarter earnings report. Earnings from operations from its Optum segment grew 21 percent.

Through employer and government-sponsored plans during the last year, the company's health insurance arm, UnitedHealthcare, grew to serve 2.5 million more people.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse