The top executives for Cone Health — chief executive Terry Akin and chief financial officer Jeff Jones — announced Thursday their plans to leave the Greensboro health care system this year.
The announcement comes five months after Cone agreed to merge with Sentara Healthcare of Norfolk, Va., in a transaction projected to close in mid-2021.
The systems expect that it could take until mid-2023 to fully combine and integrate the operations. They will function separately until the acquisition is completed.
The headquarters of the combined not-for-profit health care system would be in Norfolk. Cone and its Greensboro facilities would serve as a regional hub for Sentara.
Howard Kern, Sentara's president and chief executive, would lead the combined organization from the Norfolk headquarters. Akin was announced to serve as president of the Cone division.
However, health care analysts say it's not unusual for top executives of acquired systems and hospitals to depart before or shortly after the transaction is completed.
In this instance, Akin said he would leave once the Sentara acquisition is completed, while Jones plans to leave in February.
Dr. Mary Jo Cagle, Cone's chief operating officer, has been named to replace Akin, while Andy Barrow, senior vice president of financial services, would succeed Jones.
Cagle joined Cone in 2011. She will become the first woman and the first physician to lead Cone.
Cone said in a statement that Akin and Jones "have made their decisions independently and for purely personal reasons."
Akin has been Cone chief executive since October 2014, which included the period when Atrium Health of Charlotte managed the Cone system.
Akin said in the statement that his decision "has nothing at all to do with the planned merger. I remain fully convinced that Cone and Sentara coming together represents the best possible future for our organization."
"While I had originally planned to remain as our regional leader post-merger, it was not until the passage of time and further reflection that my pathway became clear.
"In the immediate term, I plan to take some time off to discern what’s next for me."
Jones has been chief financial officer for Cone for eight years.
FD Hornaday, chairman of Cone's board of trustees, said that “we are confident that these changes, while significant, will draw upon strong internal talent and ensure good continuity of leadership for Cone Health into our merger with Sentara and through the exciting transitions that lay ahead."
Barrow has been with Cone since 2012.