NU Online News Service, June 10, 2004, 6:49 p.m. EDT – Manulife Financial Corp., Toronto, says the top executive at its newly acquired John Hancock unit will be leaving 7 months earlier than originally expected.[@@]

David D’Alessandro, 53, Hancock’s chief executive officer, has announced plans to move his scheduled retirement date to November, from April 2005.

Manulife named D’Alessandro chief operating officer of Manulife in April, when it completed the Hancock deal, and it has been calling him the “future president of Manulife.”

Manulife says D’Alessandro will continue to serve as chairman of Hancock’s advisory board and as a member of the Manulife board. D’Alessandro will continue to be the COO of Manulife until November, but Manulife does not believe that he will go on to become president of Manulife, a Manulife spokesman says.

In related news, Manulife reports that it will be splitting control of the Hancock operations.

James Benson, a Hancock senior vice president who once was chairman of New England Life, will take over as president of John Hancock Life Insurance Company. He will be responsible for sales of Hancock’s life insurance and long term care insurance products.

John DesPrez III, a Hancock senior vice president who was president of Manulife’s U.S. life operations from 1998 until earlier this year, will become president of the John Hancock Financial Services wealth management unit. DesPrez will oversee sales of annuities, mutual funds, group pensions, college savings plans and managed accounts.

Benson and DesPrez both will report to Dominic D’Alessandro, the current president of Manulife, who is not related to David D’Alessandro.

Manulife is calling the plan to promote the 2 executives the result of the “ongoing integration of Manulife Financial and John Hancock’s U.S. operations.”

“When we announced our merger, the most important priority for our U.S.-based team was to establish very clear, delineated and stand-alone wealth management and life protection divisions,” Dominic D’Alessandro says in a statement about the personnel moves. “Under David D’Alessandro’s leadership that is being accomplished ahead of plan and the transition will be completed later this year. David recently decided to retire as CEO as part of the overall integration and transition effort.”

Dominic D’Alessandro says he and David D’Alessandro agreed that it made sense to complete the changes in Hancock’s top management by the end of the year.

David D’Alessandro will continue to oversee Hancock’s charitable and philanthropic activities, Dominic D’Alessandro notes.

David D’Alessandro says he wants a chance to do things other than run Hancock now that Hancock is in strong hands.

“Dominic is an extraordinary CEO with a clear vision of where he wants to take this company,” David D’Alessandro says. “Any organization with Dominic in charge is going to succeed.”