CLAYTON – Longtime leader Centene Corp. died on Thursday at the age of 79. Michael Neidorf, support of the St. Louis business community.
Neidorf has run the Clayton Company for 26 years, turning it from a small medical firm into a Fortune 25 hippopotamus – and the largest company headquartered in the region. He and Centene have poured millions of dollars into charities here. And he shocked the area when he urged local leaders to do more against crime.
Former Clayton mayor Harold Sanger, who worked closely with Neidorf until the company built and then expanded its headquarters in the city’s business district, called him “instrumental” to Clayton’s growth and a “wonderful man”.
“It’s a terrible loss, a terrible loss for our region,” Sanger said.
Sanger recalled that Neidorf called him at 11pm one evening after the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown sparked protests across the region to say he had received board approval to build the Centene call center in Ferguson, which included a center for child care for workers.
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“Who would do that?” Sanger said. “Only Michael.”
A long legacy
Neidorf was born in 1943 and grew up in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He received a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and a master’s degree from St. Francis College in New York City.
The company, which eventually became Centene, was founded in 1984 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as a nonprofit Medicaid plan called Family Hospital Physician Associates. Neidorf was appointed President and CEO in 1996 and expanded the company in Indiana.
The following year it was renamed Centene Corp. and established its corporate office in St. Louis.
By 2001, the company’s earnings had grown to $ 327 million, and in December of that year the company went public at a price of $ 14 per share.
In the following decades, Centene grew exponentially, with revenue of $ 126 billion last year. The company has acquired subsidiaries across the United States, including competitor WellCare Health Plans Inc. as part of a $ 17.3 billion deal in 2020. The acquisition expanded Centene’s presence to 50 states – from three in 2001.
During Neidorf’s stay, Centene was also a philanthropic force in the St. Louis region.
In 2016, Neidorf opened a modern Centene office in Ferguson worth $ 25 million with a preschool for staff children. Centene also donated more than $ 1 million to open a clinic in Ferguson.
In 2017, Neidorf was named Citizen of the Year, an honor sponsored by Post-Dispatch and selected by the Past Winners Committee.
Neidorf was a member of the board of directors of the Greater St. Louis Boy Scouts of America and the board of the Concordance Academy. He headed the Board of Trustees of Trinity University. He served on the board of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, was trustee of the St. Louis Opera House and treasurer of the Kennedy Center Board in Washington.
In July 2020, Neidorf became a lightning rod in the St. Louis region after Centene announced plans to spend $ 1 billion to build an East Coast headquarters for 6,000 employees in Charlotte, North Carolina. In an interview after the announcement, Neidorf suggested that Centene could expand here, but recruitment was hampered by the region’s problems, including crime.
But in February, the company expanded the olive branch by buying a 15-year-old title to a major league football stadium.
Neidorf intended to leave Centene this year. He was on medical leave for six weeks. He died Thursday “after a long illness,” the company said in a statement.
Director General of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis Michael Macmillan said he has known Neudorf for about two decades.
“There will never be another Michael Neidorf,” he said. “He played a big part in some of the most significant things we’ve done as an agency.”
Neidorf helped complete a local capital campaign for the Ferguson Center, built on the site of QuikTrip, which burned down during the 2014 civil unrest. He served as chairman of the National City League from 2014 to 2019. And he co-chaired a national conference in St. Louis in 2017, promising a $ 1 million gift for the effort.
Macmillan said Neidorf had recently donated $ 1 million so the City League could buy land next to its new regional headquarters on North Kingshiveway, “so we have a whole campus for North St. Louis and the Black community.”
But a few months ago he started retiring from work at Centene.
In July 2021, Centene created a three-person office of the President, which included Neidorf, current CEO Sarah London and Brent Leighton, now President and Chief Operating Officer of Centene. In the same month, as the company later revealed, Neidorf unofficially informed the board that he could resign before the end of the contract for personal reasons.
In December, Neidorf announced that he intends to retire by the end of 2022.
In February, the company reported that Neidorf was taking medical leave. On March 22, London was appointed CEO.
In a statement Thursday, London called Neidorf a “watchdog leader” in American health care.
“On behalf of Centene’s 75,000 employees, I would like to express our deepest condolences to Michael’s family and loved ones,” London said. “Michael’s passion lives on in Centene’s women and men, and his commitment to the mission to transform the health of America’s most vulnerable citizens lives on.”
Neidorf was the husband of Naomi Neidorf, the father of Peter Neidorf and the late Monica Neidorf, and the brothers of Susan Neidorf Reinglas and Robert Neidorf.
The family declined to comment.