Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company says it is firing Robert O’Connell, the company’s chairman and chief executive, “due to certain issues, subject to his rights under his employment contract.”[@@]

Stuart Reese will take over as chief executive officer and president of MassMutual, Springfield, Mass., and James Birle will become chairman of the company’s board.

MassMutual’s announcement about O’Connell’s firing “speaks for itself, and we have nothing further to add,” MassMutual spokesman Mark DiGiorgio said Friday.

MassMutual said in the original announcement of O’Connell’s departure that the issues surrounding the dismissal “do not affect the company’s financial strength or its operations going forward.”

A company spokesman told a reporter for MassMutual’s hometown newspaper, the Springfield Republican, that the company took action as a result of O’Connell’s “conduct,” but the spokesman declined to elaborate further, according to an article that appeared Saturday in the Springfield Republican.

O’Connell has issued a separate statement emphasizing MassMutual’s strong performance.

“During my tenure of nearly 7 years as chairman, president and chief executive officer of MassMutual, the company has made major strides in all phases of its operations,” O’Connell says. “Assets under management now exceed $365 billion, and net operating income has grown every year since I joined the company.”

O’Connell says it would be “inappropriate” to comment further on the issues surrounding his dismissal.

O’Connell was president of U.S. Life Companies, a unit of American International Group Inc., New York, before he began working for MassMutual in 1999 While at MassMutual, he started a free term life insurance program for low-income working parents who want to protect the ability of their children to pay college tuition and tuition at other tuition-charging schools.

Reese has worked for MassMutual for 12 years and has been the company’s executive vice president and chief investment officer since 1999.

Birle has been on the MassMutual board since 1992. He is a former group executive at General Electric Company, Fairfield, Conn.

Additional information was contributed to this article by the NU Online News Service staff .