- Centene has appointed Sarah London as its new CEO, effective immediately. She succeeds longtime leader Michael Neidorff, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday.
- London, 41, joined Centene in 2020 from Optum and has a focus on data and technology. She has quickly ascended the ranks at Centene and recently was named vice chairperson.
- Neidorff remains on a medical leave of absence from his role as chairman of the company board.
London's appointment follows pressure from an activist investor group seeking to shake up management, which concluded with a deal in December that secured the planned retirement of Neidorff, 79, who has led the St. Louis-based company since 1996.
Speculation over who would succeed Neidorff ramped up last summer, particularly after the formation of the "Office of the President", a three-member executive office including Neidorff, London and Brent Layton, a longtime Centene executive. Later, the office would change names to "value creation office" with CFO Drew Asher joining.
The office, which some saw as succession planning, garnered criticism. Jefferies analyst David Windley called it "anything but clean" and labeled the succession planning as "puzzling."
Neidorff frequently touted that he envisioned Centene as a technology company that does healthcare, and London has said she was recruited to execute that strategy.
"That vision is why I'm here," London said in a video after her first 90 days after joining the company.
Centene provides insurance to more than 26 million people and the bulk of its members are covered under Medicaid.
As a result of rapid growth, London said the company faced a challenge on the technology side to consolidate a "full complement of legacy technology platforms."
The company has relied on key acquisitions over the years to boost its size and scale.
In 2020, Centene completed its blockbuster acquisition of rival WellCare, which more than doubled its Medicare footprint and further expanded its core business of providing government-sponsored healthcare to millions.
In addition to the activist pressure, London takes charge as the company reevaluates its operations.
As part of a long-term plan to boost profitability, company executives said in December they were taking time to analyze each part of the business.
To help improve margins, executives said they no longer planned to operate an in-house pharmacy benefit manager and bid out the work this year. Executives also aim to sell non-core assets, which may include its international business.
Centene generated revenue of $126 billion in 2021, a 13% increase over the year prior as more people were enrolled in Medicaid plans following the pandemic. Net income dropped 26% to $1.3 billion as more people returned for care compared with the first year of the pandemic.