Maine-Based MEMIC’s Founding President and CEO to Retire in 2017

December 15, 2016

The MEMIC Group, the Portland, Maine, headquartered workers’ compensation insurer, has announced the retirement of its founding President and CEO, John T. Leonard, effective September of 2017.

Leonard serves as the first and only president and CEO in the history of The MEMIC Group and has led change in workplace culture in Maine while building a $1 billion company, according to a press release issued by MEMIC.

“We have now built a company that I believe is the best workers’ compensation insurer in the country,” Leonard said in the release. “It is financially strong, highly rated by A.M. Best, and poised to become a national leader in our industry. It is now my time to step aside, and while it’s hard to leave something I love, I know that it’s in a very good position for future success.”

According to MEMIC Board Chair David Labbe, the company’s Board of Directors has been prepared for Leonard’s eventual retirement and has a plan to hire his successor. The company’s board has formed a search committee and expects to attract candidates internally and externally.

“John has built a strong management team here over the years,” Labbe said in the release. “There will be very strong internal candidates, but we will also do our due diligence with candidates from outside the company. Replacing John Leonard is no easy task. He is a unique and transformational leader who succeeded where so many thought he would fail. He leaves an incredible legacy of success, commitment, and goodwill.”

Leonard was recruited to help start the company in 1993, taking his position as president in its first few weeks.

The company grew out of a reform of workers’ compensation laws in Maine in 1992. It is a private mutual insurance company, with its initial funding through loans and insurance premiums. The company opened its doors in a small office in Westbrook, Maine, in late 1992 and wrote its first policy on January 1, 1993.

“I give John Leonard the credit for having been there at the inception and having had the vision,” said former Maine Governor John McKernan in the release. “He understood from the beginning that… MEMIC could change the culture in the workplace all across Maine.”

Establishing a plan to reduce costs in Maine by reducing injuries, the company’s Partnership for Workplace Safety campaign was highlighted by Leonard to encourage employers and employees to work together to make workplaces safer. By 1998, lost time injuries in the state had fallen by more than 30 percent and costs for workers’ compensation insurance reduced by about 40 percent.

“In the late 80s and early 90s, Maine was the worst state in the country for workers’ compensation,” Leonard said. “We were the company that proved that with the reforms to the law, the marketplace could again create the right balance between cost and employee safety. We took a unique approach and today, we’re taking that same approach down the East Coast and beyond.”

In 2000, MEMIC unveiled its diversification strategy by forming a subsidiary to write workers’ compensation insurance in other states under the MEMIC brand. The company grew its footprint and acquired a second subsidiary in 2012. Today, the company underwrites more workers’ compensation premium outside of Maine than inside its home state.

“(John’s) leadership made all the difference,” former Maine governor and current U.S. Senator Angus King Jr. said in a 2013 interview outlined in the release. “A lot of people thought it wouldn’t work – to break through that, have it be successful and have it be such a service to Maine – it’s a real tribute to John’s leadership… I use it as an example of leadership.”

Under Leonard’s direction, the company grew from operating only in Maine to a company with assets of more than $1.2 billion and offices from Maine to Florida.

John Leonard
John Leonard

Now, the MEMIC Group, led by the original parent company Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Company, provides workers’ compensation insurance to more than 21,000 employers along the East Coast, maintains a surplus of more than $400 million and has returned more than $220 million to policyholders since 1998.

“The establishment and success of MEMIC has been a labor of love,” Leonard said. “I am so proud of this company, of its people, and of its mission to reduce injuries. The early days were difficult, but we all believed in the mission. We worked together with policyholders and workers to change Maine’s culture of workplace injuries to a culture of workplace safety. That work continues today, and every day, there are people who go home each night safe because of the efforts spearheaded by MEMIC. I am immensely proud of that.”

Source: The MEMIC Group

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