Posted on 04 Jun 2009
Chairman and Chief Executive of The Hartford, Ramani Ayer, will retire at the end of this year and the company will look outside for a new leader at a time of extraordinary financial turmoil.
Ayer, 62, told the board of The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. that he is stepping down now that the company has "made a series of important decisions about The Hartford's path forward, setting the company on a new strategic course to build value for our shareholders."
Ayer, known for his keen intellect, is among the most highly respected CEOs in Connecticut, and for most of his dozen years in office, has maintained solid growth in the company's businesses, by most measures.
Still, the company, with 12,300 employees in Greater Hartford, has suffered billions of dollars in losses over the last year as a result of investment declines, mostly in its life insurance and annuities business. In October, The Hartford received a $2.5 billion investment from German insurer Allianz, which allows Allianz to eventually own a 24 percent stake, and last month, the U.S. Treasury pledged $3.4 billion in bailout funds -- saving The Hartford from having to sell off major pieces of itself to raise cash.
Also over the last year, The Hartford has lost several top-ranking executives, including Tom Marra, the former chief operating officer and heir apparent to Ayer, who retired at age 50. Neal Wolin, who was head of property-casualty and formerly the company's top lawyer, left this year for a high post in the U.S. Treasury.
Despite recent layoffs totaling about 325 in the Hartford area, the company has consistently maintained employment levels here, as Ayer has kept key operations close to home.
"We will continue to leverage the venerable Hartford brand, moving ahead with our strong property and casualty and life franchises. With this clarity in place, it is the right time for me to make my plans for retirement and for the Board to begin the search for my successor," Ayer said. "In the meantime, I am fully committed to leading this organization during this period and to ensuring a smooth leadership transition as the company enters its third century. For nearly 36 years, I have been honored to call The Hartford my home and I am proud of the culture of integrity, trust and customer service that is woven into the fabric of this outstanding organization."
Michael G. Morris, the company's lead independent director and formerly CEO of Northeast Utilities, praised Ayer's leadership. "He is recognized throughout the industry for his deep knowledge and experience, and for his high integrity," Morris said.
Ayer has been with The Hartford throughout his career, since graduating from Drexel University in 1973. He rose through the ranks of the property-casualty business, and was named CEO in February, 1997.