Executive Compensation

Revamped pay revealed at UnitedHealth

The management succession plan announced at UnitedHealth Group on Wednesday also comes with corresponding changes in compensation to reflect the changing responsibilities of executives.

CEO David Wichmann, who succeeds Stephen Hemsley on Sept. 1, will see his salary increase from $1.1 million a year to $1.3 million. He also will be eligible for a larger annual cash incentive and additional long-term equity awards including stock options, restricted stock units and performance shares.

Wichmann has done pretty well in his 20-year tenure at huge UnitedHealth Group. The last two years he has been the highest-compensated non-CEO of a Minnesota public company when he took home $25.2 million in 2016 and $30.2 million in 2015, mainly from the realized value of his long-term equity awards.

Conversely, Stephen Hemsley will become executive chairman of the board on Sept. 1 and his annual salary will move from $1.3 million to $1 million per year. Hemsley has had the same $1.3 million annual salary since 2007.

The executive chairman title is a new one at UnitedHealth and Hemsley is expected to continue his role in shaping the mission and strategic direction of the organization.

During Hemsley’s tenure as CEO the company’s revenue grew from $71.5 billion to an estimated $200 billion and UnitedHealth added more than 200,000 new jobs during that time, including 17,000 in Minnesota.

Hemsley, who has realized millions from long-term equity awards over the years, has generally held on to those shares after they have vested or he has exercised options. According to the most recent proxy, Hemsley now owns or controls more than 3.7 million shares of UnitedHealth which would be valued at nearly $725 million based on the current share price.

The role changes also affect Chairman Richard Burke who will become lead independent director, and his annual cash retainer will decrease to $75,000.

Patrick Kennedy


Minnestar selects first executive director

Veteran educator and nonprofit executive Maria Ploessl has signed on as the first executive director of Minnestar, the nonprofit organizer that supports Minnesota technology companies with popular events that have drawn more than 1,000 people.

“It’s been completely run by volunteers for 10 years, funded by sponsoring companies of various sizes,” Ploessl said. “The board wants a sustainable organization that is growing. Our events are extremely popular and routinely sell out. Now, we have to look at what else can we do to help the technology community in Minnesota thrive.”

Minnestar is known for signature events where software developers, designers, entrepreneurs and investors gather to connect and share ideas. The annual “Minnebar” conference, long dubbed the “unconference,” features sessions conceived and run by tech community members. The thrice-annual “Minnedemo” features members, companies and start-ups who share their ideas and projects in short live demos.

The organization has run on a budget of about $250,000 annually paid by dozens of members.

“Maria brings a wealth of expertise that will help us execute our mission of growing a vibrant tech community,” said Casey Helbling, Minnestar board chairman, in a prepared statement.

Ploessl, 31, has a decade of program management, administration and community-engagement experience. She has served as campus director for the Iron Yard, the software-coding school; as program manager for City Year Boston and as a teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools. She also was a Fulbright Scholar in Bragança, Brazil, where she developed university-level educational programming and events.

More information: www.minnestar.org.

Neal St. Anthony


New leader at MPMA has legislative roots

Attorney and former legislative staffer Amy Walstien will become executive director at the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association (MPMA) starting Sept. 1.

Walstien plans to increase the visibility of the high-tech trade association and lobby the Minnesota Legislature on issues important to its 325 members. Most members are manufacturers who make highly precise parts that go into medical devices, aircraft, automobiles, watercraft and other machinery.

Walstien leaves her legal and government-relations practice for the new post.

During the 2017 legislative session, she lobbied successfully for MPMA on a bill that funded the Youth Skills Training program that allows 16- and 17-year-old high school students access to work-based training opportunities.

Walstien has served as the director of Education & Workforce Development Policy and Elections for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, where she lobbied at the Capitol. Walstien also served as director of government relations for the Minnesota Department of Education. In 2011, she worked as an aide to the Senate Finance Committee chair and Senate majority leader and staff.

“Her experience at the Minnesota Chamber, strong success at the legislature and deep connections in this community will be instrumental in moving the MPMA’s strategic priorities forward,” said MPMA President Brenda Kyle.

Dee DePass