Elliott Management proposes $6.5 billion takeover of athenahealth

CEO Jonathan Bush is reviewing the offer, which the hedge fund says can help the cloud IT company realize its potential and create more value for shareholders.
By Bernie Monegain
01:35 PM
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athenahealth EHR vendor at HIMSS18

Activist investor Elliott Management is pressing athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush to sell the cloud-based EHR company he co-founded in 1997. Shares of athenahealth jumped more than 23 percent on the news.

Bush, who is in the midst of retooling the company, said in a statement Monday that the board of directors would "carefully review the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interest" of the company and shareholders.

To date, athenahealth has managed to fend off the circling New York hedge fund, which is headed by Paul Singer.

This latest offer, to pay $160 in cash per share, comes on the heels of first quarter results that appeared to provide a slight boost for the company – although Bush acknowledged during the first quarter 2018 call with investors that there was still more "remodeling work" to do.

"The case for going private is compelling and cannot be ignored," Jesse Cohn, a partner and senior portfolio manager at Elliott, wrote to the athenahealth board, adding that the company "has not worked for many years, is not working today and will not work in the future."

He said that, as a public company, athenahealth "has not made the changes necessary to enable it to grow as it should and to create the kind of value its shareholders deserve."

Elliott Associates took the first step toward acquiring athenahealth in May 2017 when it purchased 9.2 percent of its stock, which at the time triggered a 12 percent jump in stock price.

In an effort to ward off a takeover, Bush began to restructure in October 2017. The company cut 9 percent of its workforce, closed some offices and sold the company jet.

In February 2018, athenahealth appointed former GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt as chairman of its board of directors.

In April 2018, Bush announced an overhaul of the company's structure, with new standalone micro-services.The company debuted Epocrates Connect, a mobile app in March at HIMSS18. The system uses machine learning and language processing to give providers information and help coordinating patient care.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com