Jonathan Bush: Running a company with an activist investor is like having a 'gun to your head'

Julie Spitzer - Print  | 

Athenahealth co-founder and former CEO Jonathan Bush called out activist investment firm Elliott Management for its role in influencing the sale of the company during an interview with CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" Dec. 12.

In May 2017, about a year before athenahealth's decision to sell itself, Elliott purchased a 9.2 percent stake in the company.

Mr. Bush compared his experience having an activist investor take a stake in his company to working with a gun to his head. "My experience is running a company with a gun to your head is no way to run a company. Better to just say, 'Pull the trigger,'" he told CNBC.

In early November, private equity firm Veritas Capital and Elliott affiliate Evergreen Coast Capital acquired athenahealth for an estimated $5.7 billion in cash. Elliott originally had made an unsolicited, all-cash bid for athenahealth worth roughly $7 billion in May 2018.

Shortly after Elliott issued its initial bid, Mr. Bush stepped down as president, CEO and member of the company's board in June 2018. During the CNBC interview, Mr. Bush raised suspicions that Elliott had played a role in his resignation.

Elliott wasn't immediately available to comment on CNBC's Dec. 12 report. However, the firm previously denied playing a role in Mr. Bush's departure. However, Elliott is known for "rebooting management and selling companies," according to a CNBC report from 2017.

To watch CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" interview with Mr. Bush, click here.

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