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Western Health Chief Resigns Abruptly

February 27, 1986|BILL RITTER | San Diego County Business Editor

SAN DIEGO — The president and chief executive officer of Western Health Plans has resigned abruptly because the company "became too big and too complex" for him, the firm's chairman said Tuesday.

James G. Stumpfel was "absolutely not" forced out of the position he held for the past four years, Alan Goodman, a local surgeon and a founder of the San Diego-based health maintenance organization (HMO), said in an interview.

Stumpfel's focus represented "too broad a sweep--it became too big and too complex," said Goodman.

Goodman praised Stumpfel, who presented his resignation to the Western Health Plans board Monday night, for "leading Western and guiding it through the difficult transition from a nonprofit company to a for-profit corporation."

Also stepping down was chief operating officer Paul D. Ridgely, who will become chief executive of Samaritan Health Plans in Milwaukee.

Ridgely's departure and Stumpfel's resignation were not connected, Goodman maintained.

Stumpfel will remain at the company for about six months as a consultant, officials said.

Sherry A. Camozzi, formerly acting executive director of the company's Nevada operations, was named interim president. The company will hire an executive search firm to find a permanent replacement for Stumpfel, said Goodman.

The company last week reported earnings of $945,000 and revenues of $42.7 million for the six months ended Dec. 31, compared to profits of $3.2 million on revenues of $31.4 million in the comparable period in the prior year.

Western Health Plans went public in December, 1984. Its membership totaled about 106,000 as of Jan. 31, up 5.3% since Dec. 31, officials said.

The company's stock has not performed as well. From a high of 23 7/8 last summer, the stock closed Tuesday at 5 1/2.

Stumpfel could not be reached for comment, a typical dilemma for reporters trying to interview Stumpfel in the past few months. That "may be one of the reasons he resigned," said Goodman. "The company grew and it may have grown faster than he could deal with."

Goodman pledged that a new president will "respond (to inquiries) immediately. I want us to sound like Disneyland (over the phone), where people know how to treat you nicely."

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