Skip to main content

HCA Announces CEO R. Milton Johnson's Retirement, Names Successors

Analysis  |  By Steven Porter  
   September 10, 2018

The for-profit hospital operator's current president and COO will take over as CEO, and the son of HCA's founder is expected to be named its next chairman.

Nashville-based HCA Healthcare announced Monday morning that Chairman and CEO R. Milton Johnson will retire at the end of the year, completing exactly five years as the company's top executive.

Johnson, who has worked 36 years for the for-profit hospital operator, will be succeeded as CEO on January 1 by current HCA President and Chief Operating Officer Sam Hazen, the board of directors said.

Johnson will retain his title as HCA chairman through the company's annual shareholders meeting on April 26, at which point the directors plan to appoint current board member Thomas F. Frist III as chairman.

"I remain excited about the company’s future and have strongly endorsed Sam as the right person to lead the company; his leadership has greatly contributed to our success," Johnson said in a statement.

Left to right: R. Milton Johnson, Sam Hazen, and Thomas F. Frist III (HCA)

Hazen, who has worked for HCA nearly as long as Johnson has, served previously as HCA's COO, its president of operations, Western Group president and Wester Group chief financial officer, the company said.

"I want to thank Milton for his strong leadership during his many years with the company," Hazen said in the statement.

"In this transition and beyond, I pledge to use my leadership role to continue our focus on providing the best possible care for patients, as well as building on our successes for all our stakeholders," Hazen added.

Related: Hospitals Launch Not-for-Profit Civica Rx in 'Direct Challenge to Generic Drug Companies'

Related: HCA's CEO Earned 312-Times As Much As Median Employee Last Year

Related: HCA to Buy Nonprofit Mission Health for $1.5B

Frist, who expected to become HCA's next chairman, is the son of company founder Thomas Frist Jr. and has been a board member since 2006, the company noted. To this day, the Frist family owns about 20% of HCA's outstanding shares.

"Tommy grew up as part of the HCA Healthcare family.  He knows the company and culture very well and shares management’s passion for patient care," said Chad Holliday, who will keep his title as HCA's independennt president director. "We're excited about this transition and expect a continuation of the good governance and operational excellence at HCA Healthcare under his board leadership."

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.