UnitedHealth Group’s Gail Boudreaux: “I’m definitely not retiring”

November 13, 2014, 12:00 PM UTC

Gail Boudreaux

Boudreaux, chief of the $103 billion benefits business, has prepped UnitedHealth for the arrival of Obamacare by adding more than 9 million members in Medicaid, Medicare, and corporate plans in the past year, including 2.9 million members of the military.
Courtesy of UnitedHealth Group

It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Fortune‘s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. Since the list came out in late September, four of our top 50 have left or announced plans to leave their companies: No. 5 Pat Woertz, CEO of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), who announced that she will leave the top spot in January; No. 18 Melanie Healey, who will step down as group president of Proctor & Gamble’s (PG) North America business in June; No. 44 Debra Crew, who jumped from head of North America Nutrition at PepsiCo (PEP) to president and chief commercial officer at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco (RAI); and, on November 12, the surprise announcement that No. 25 Gail Boudreaux, EVP of UnitedHealth Group, would be leaving the company.

Boudreaux, 54, ran the largest division of the largest U.S. insurer. With $113.8 billion in revenue out of United Health’s (UNH) $125.8 billion in total revenue under her control, Boudreaux was long believed to be a possible successor to UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen Hemsley. But in a surprise announcement on Wednesday, the company said it had formed a new Office of the CEO. It’s composed of four people, two of whom—David Wichmann and Larry Renfro—were given expanded duties.

Boudreaux was not part of that team—and, it seems, concluded it was time to move on. She spoke to Fortune on Wednesday afternoon and, when asked, said that she did not want to comment on the leadership changes. “It’s been a great run,” she said. “I’m really proud of our results, and I’ve accomplished what I came here to do.”

What Boudreaux did—besides preside over an amazing growth period since she started in 2008, as United grew its already huge revenues by some 50%—was to help create a culture strong enough to support the fast-paced growth of the company. She created an environment that developed “trust with the people we serve,” something that does not come easily in the health care industry. It is leading and putting together teams, she said, that she has loved the best—not all that surprising given her background: she was a basketball and track star while an undergraduate at Dartmouth College.

So what’s next? After taking a little bit of time to watch her youngest son play basketball in his final year of high school (his older brother is also a basketball star at Dartmouth), Boudreaux says she intends to run something significant. “I love to lead businesses,” she said. “I”m going to be open-minded about it, but I do want to lead an enterprise where I can make a difference. I’m definitely not retiring.”

Analysts think she won’t have a problem landing elsewhere—although she does have a two year noncompete in her industry. “She has a lot of really good experience,” says Vishnu Likraj, senior analyst at Morningstar. “She performed very, very solidly. I’d assume she’d have an easy time [finding a new position.]” Hopefully, we’ll see her in a new role in time for the 2015 edition of Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women in Business list.

“From the MPW Co-chairs” is a series where the editors who oversee the Fortune Most Powerful Women brand share their insights about women leaders.

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