Top-10 Courant Stories Of 2017 No. 6: Insurer Aetna Rocks Hartford With Headquarter Relocation, Sale To CVS

Aetna Inc., the company that was founded in Hartford in 1853 and morphed into a health insurer, rocked the city — and Connecticut — in 2017 with plans to move its headquarters to Manhattan and then, a few months later, with a sale to CVS Health Corp.

Aetna’s decision to move its headquarters to New York’s trendy Meatpacking district, announced in June, was a blow to Hartford’s prestige but it was unclear how many employees would move to Manhattan. Aetna said it expected to employ 250 in New York within three years.

Barely six months later, Aetna’s move to sell to CVS Health in a blockbuster, $69 billion deal — one of the biggest ever in health care — has the potential to reshape the industry.

If approved, the merger would combine a provider of pharmacy benefits and a coast-to-coast drugstore chain with a growing number of in-store clinics and a health insurer with 22 million medical members.

The merger also would mean a big payday for Aetna’s chief executive Mark T. Bertolini, who stands to take home a half a billion dollar payout, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In The Courant’s ranking of the top 10 stories of the year, the two dramatic moves by Aetna in 2017 ranked No. 6.

Since Aetna’s merger with CVS was announced Dec. 3, the status of Aetna’s headquarters move has been thrown into uncertainty. CVS said all real estate locations will be under review and would not say if the relocation would go forward.

Aetna employs about 6,000 in Connecticut, the majority — about 4,000 — at its Farmington Avenue headquarters in Hartford.

Aetna said the relocation was driven by the insurer’s goal to tap into the “knowledge economy.” The insurer was pursuing a digital transformation, shifting from its traditional role as insurer to health care company.

If the Aetna-CVS deal clears regulatory hurdles, experts say it is likely Aetna will be run as a separate unit, at least initially. There is little overlap between the two companies, a potential positive for jobs in Hartford until strategies are developed to more closely integrate the two companies.

Editor's note: The Courant selected the top 10 news stories for 2017. Aetna is No. 6.

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