CFO Johnson to take over as HCA CEO

Bracken, boss since '09, to stay on as chairman after New Year's

HCA Holdings said Monday afternoon that Chairman and CEO Richard Bracken will at the end of the year relinquish the second of those titles. President and CFO Milton Johnson will take over at that time.

Bracken, who will turn 61 in September, joined HCA in 1981 and steadily rose up the ranks, leading the company's Pacific Division in the mid-1990s and its Western Group from August 1997 to mid-2001. He was then named COO and added the title of president the following January. The hospital titan's board tapped him to succeed Jack Bovender as CEO in 2009 and he was appointed chairman of the board in December of that year.

Johnson, who has a background in tax accounting, has been with HCA for 31 years. He was named to the company’s board in 2009 and took on the title of president in February 2011. In a statement, HCA said it has launched an internal search for his successor as CFO.

"This planned transition and the appointment of Milton as CEO is consistent with our company’s succession strategy," said Bracken, right in our photo. "We are very fortunate to have him to lead the way in the coming years. His knowledge of our industry and years of experience with HCA make him ideally suited for this role."

HCA Co-Founder Thomas Frist Jr. praised Bracken as an executive who leaves behind a track record of "outstanding quality performance [and the] creation of unsurpassed value for our patients as well as our shareholders."

"Richard has led HCA to a level of operational and clinical achievement that I never dreamed possible when my father and Jack Massey and I started HCA 45 years ago," Frist said. "I am confident Milton and our executive team will continue that record of achievement."

Shares of HCA (Ticker: HCA) rose slightly after hours to $39.05 Monday, regaining some of the 1.7 percent they lost during regular trading. Year to date, they've climbed about 30 percent.