Business

Aetna opts for a base in New York, not Boston

This Aug. 19, 2014, file photo, shows corporate signage at Aetna headquarters in Hartford, Conn. Hartford's Mayor Luke Bronin said Wednesday, May 31, 2017, that he believes Aetna is planning to move its headquarters out of Connecticut. The mayor released a statement saying that he has had multiple conversations with senior leaders at the insurance giant and believes the company decided a long time ago to relocate their corporate headquarters. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)
Jessica Hill/AP/file 2014
Hartford won’t be home base but Aetna will keep jobs in the city

HARTFORD — The insurance giant Aetna made it official on Thursday: It will move its corporate headquarters to New York City, beginning in late 2018, after nearly two centuries in Hartford.

Mark Bertolini, CEO and chairman, said New York is a ‘‘knowledge economy hub’’ and a driver of innovations.

‘‘Many of the roles in our new office will be filled by innovators from the area’s deep talent pool, which will be an invaluable resource as we consider additional investments in the city going forward,’’ he said in a written statement.

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The news was not a total surprise to Connecticut officials, who learned in May that Aetna was in negotiations with several states about moving its corporate base out of the state’s capital city.

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Aetna had been rumored to be looking at office space in Boston; one of its top executives, Gary Loveman, lives and works in Wellesley.

The announcement comes about a year and a half after General Electric said it was moving its headquarters from the Connecticut suburb of Fairfield to Boston.

While some see Aetna’s decision as a psychological blow to a state that continues to struggle with budget deficits, officials noted that Aetna said its move will have minimal impact on its Connecticut employee base, and that the company remains committed to its campus in Hartford, where its presence dates to 1819.

‘‘Connecticut has a long history with Aetna and we appreciate that thousands of their employees will continue to work and live here in the state,’’ said Meg Green, a spokeswoman for Democratic Governor Dannel P. Malloy. ‘‘While Hartford may not be New York City, we are proud of the city’s revitalization. Hartford provides a strong foundation for any company in the insurance sector, large or small.’’

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She said Connecticut ‘‘remains the insurance capital of the world for good reason.’’

Malloy had lobbied Aetna to stay, promising to match any incentive package the company received from another state.

Connecticut’s House minority leader, Themis Klarides, noted that Aetna mentioned Connecticut’s continued budget woes in its statement. She said that should ‘‘be a motivating factor [for lawmakers] as we work to solve this looming financial disaster.’’

Connecticut’s fiscal year is poised to end Friday without a new two-year budget in place that covers a projected two-year, $5 billion deficit. Lawmakers were debating Thursday whether to pass a short-term budget this week or have Malloy run state government using his limited executive authority, a move that would guarantee deep spending cuts to programs ranging from services for people with disabilities to summer jobs for teens.

‘‘Aetna’s long-term commitment to the state will be based on the state’s economic health. The company remains hopeful that lawmakers will come to an agreement that puts Connecticut on sound financial footing,’’ the company said in a statement.

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Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, a Democrat, urged lawmakers to ‘‘take bold action quickly’’ to address the fiscal crises in the state and in Hartford, which faces the possibility of bankruptcy.

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‘‘I hope that, as a state, we can use the loss of Aetna’s flag as a rallying cry to put Connecticut on a sound fiscal path and position our cities — including Hartford — to be the strong, vibrant centers of growth that Connecticut needs and that our major employers demand,’’ he said.

So what about Aetna and Massachusetts?

The insurer gave its Wellesley operations props in its press release — an unusual move that’s sometimes designed to console a runner-up or stoke hopes for a future local expansion.

In this case, both might be true.

The company’s Consumer Health and Services business remains based in Wellesley, in an office building along Route 9.

An Aetna spokesman declined to say how many people work there, but said the unit is steadily growing.

And while Aetna won’t be based in Boston, he said, the company’s “commitment to Massachusetts has never been stronger.”

The reason Aetna is there? Thank Loveman, the Harvard Business School professor-turned-casino executive.

Loveman kept his Wellesley ties after joining the Nevada company that’s now known as Caesars. It seems he insisted on the same treatment after Aetna hired him in 2015 to run its consumer business.

Jon Chesto of the Globe staff contributed to this report.