The board of MetLife Inc. has named Steven Kandarian – the man who picked a good time to sell the Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town residential development – to succeed C. Robert Henrikson as president and chief executive officer.

Henrikson, who has been chairman, president and CEO of MetLife, New York (NYSE:MET), since 2006, will turn 65, the company’s mandatory executive management retirement age, in May 2012.

The MetLife board says Kandarian, who is now the company’s chief investment Steven Kandarianofficer, will take over as president and CEO May 1. In April, the board will nominate him to for a seat on the board.

Henrikson will stay on as chairman until the end of the year, the board says.

Kandarian has been MetLife’s CIO since April 2005. He led efforts to diversify the company’s investment portfolio, in part by making the decision to sell the Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town development for $5.4 billion in 2006, at the market peak.

In 2009, Kandarian assumed responsibility for MetLife’s global brand and marketing services department.

In July 2009, MetLife put its institutional operations, its individual operations and its auto and home unit in a single U.S. business as a result of a strategic review started by Kandarian.

In October 2009, Kandarian testified at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on efforts to develop what became components of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Kandarian was executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

from 2001 to 2005.

Before that, he worked at private equity and investment firms.

Kandarian has a bachelor’s degree from Clark University, a law degree from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in business from Harvard University.

Colin Devine, an analyst at Citi Investment Research & Analysis, New York, says in a commentary that the transition was expected, and that the decision to pick an internal candidate was also expected.

Kandarian likely will continue on the course set by Henrikson, Devine predicts.

Kandarian told the MetLife board in June 2005 that the commercial real estate market had peaked. Around the same time that he sold the Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town complex, he sold MetLife’s former headquarters building and the MetLife/Pan Am building, Devine says.

The strong performance of MetLife’s investment portfolio during the 2008-2009 credit crisis, and the company’s disciplined financial risk management controls, helped give MetLife the ability to complete its recent acquisition of American Life Insurance Company from American International Group Inc., New York (NYSE:AIG), Devine says.

Thomas Gallagher of Credit Suisse, New York, says Kandarian appears to be the winner of a three-way race between him; William Wheeler, the company’s chief financial officer; and William Mullaney, the head of MetLife’s U.S. business.

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