Benmosche will step down next spring

Robert H. Benmosche, MetLife chairman and CEO, said he plans to retire next spring.

At the same time, the company’s board of directors announced that it unanimously elected C. Robert Henrikson, president and chief operating officer of MetLife, New York, to succeed Benmosche. It also appointed Henrikson to the board.

According to a statement from MetLife, the board had been planning for Benmosche’s retirement for more than a year and settled on his successor in February after considering a number of internal and external candidates.

Benmosche will turn 61 next month. He assumed his current positions in 1998, leading the 137-year-old company through demutualization and its recent acquisition of Travelers Life and Annuity from Citigroup for $11.5 billion, which is expected to close this summer.

He joined MetLife as an executive vice president in 1995 and was president and chief operating officer from November 1997 through June 1998.

Henrikson, 58, became president and COO of MetLife in June 2004, overseeing its individual, institutional, auto and home, international and asset-management businesses as well as MetLife Bank. He started with the company as a salesman more than 33 years ago. Before assuming his current duties, he had been president of MetLife’s U.S. insurance and financial services businesses.

Doug Meyer, a ratings analyst with Fitch, Chicago, doesn’t expect significant changes after Henrikson takes over the reins.

“It was not a surprise,” Meyer says of Benmosche’s announcement. “We expect an orderly transition. Henrikson has been working under Benmosche for a long time. We would not anticipate any changes in strategic direction.”

He points out Benmosche will be around to watch as the Travelers acquisition is absorbed by the company.

Meyer does not foresee any more acquisitions by MetLife until some time after Henrikson takes over because the company has enough on its plate now with making sure the Travelers deal works.

“But they will make other significant acquisitions in the future,” Meyer predicts. “MetLife is a significant player in a consolidating industry so they will be a player and they’ve demonstrated that with General American [acquired in 2000] and now Travelers.”