Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday nominated state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) for an appointment to Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield’s board of directors.
Kyrillos, who declined to seek re-election this year, was once one of Christie’s closest allies in the Legislature and has been a top GOP fundraiser for years. He will replace lawyer Russell Hewit on Horizon’s board, according to a source familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The governor’s office announced but declined to comment on the nomination.
Christie spent months this year pummeling Horizon, the state’s largest health insurer, during a budget battle that ended up shutting down state government for three days. Christie demanded that lawmakers pass a bill to take about $300 million a year from Horizon’s contingency fund to pay for drug-addiction treatment programs. But the governor ultimately settled for a watered-down bill that didn’t allow him to raid the company’s reserves.
The governor also sought changes to Horizon’s board structure. The bill he signed in January allowed two members to be added to its 15-person board — one appointed by the Senate president and one by the Assembly speaker. Christie had argued that Horizon needed “to be held answerable” by legislation that would add public members to its board.
His most recent appointments to the board are Kyrillos, a commercial real estate broker, and Michele Brown, a trusted Christie adviser and former federal prosecutor.
The Democratic-controlled state Senate is required to approve nominations to Horizon’s board of directors. The position pays well for a part-time gig that essentially boils down to several meetings a year. Some directors earned as much as $119,000, according to company records made public by Politico. It’s considered one of the best-paying appointments the governor and Senate can bestow.
Hewit is a founding partner at the firm Dughi, Hewit and Domalewski. It wasn’t immediately clear why he was leaving the board.
Kyrillos chaired Christie’s 2009 gubernatorial campaign and the two were allies in Christie’s first term. But by 2016, Kyrillos had left the Christie bandwagon. He endorsed and became a fundraiser for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign instead of Christie’s.