Athenahealth names former GE CEO Jeff Immelt as chairman

The athenahealth board of directors has unanimously appointed Jeff Immelt chairman of the company, effective Feb. 7.

Mr. Immelt most recently served as chairman and CEO of General Electric, a role he retired from in late 2017. During his 16-year tenure as chairman of GE, Mr. Immelt helped grow GE Healthcare from a $3 billion to a $20 billion enterprise, in part by diversifying its portfolio with digital and life science services.

Mr. Immelt's appointment as chairman is part of a series of initiatives athenahealth leadership launched in 2017 to create a more "focused and efficient company, drive increased levels of profitable growth and enhance shareholder value," according to a Feb. 7 company statement.

The athenahealth board of directors and management team announced a plan to restructure the company's senior leadership Aug. 1. Under the plan, athenahealth co-founder Jonathan Bush — who had served as CEO, president and chairman of the board — maintained his role as CEO, while the board established a separate president role and began recruitment for an independent chairman.

The decision followed Paul Singer's May 18 purchase of a 9.2 percent stake in athenahealth. Mr. Singer — an activist investor and hedge fund manager — runs Elliott Management, a hedge fund management firm known for "rebooting management and selling companies," according to a CNBC report published in May.

"Jeff shares our vision for more connected, efficient and human-centered healthcare," Mr. Bush said in the Feb. 7 company statement. "His appointment as chairman is one of many important steps the company has taken over the past year to enhance the board and management team, as well as to strengthen and focus our operational and go-to-market strategy."

Athenahealth, which has yet to name a new company president, expects these initiatives to generate $100 million to $115 million in gross pretax expense savings.

Mr. Immelt will also make a financial investment in athenahealth, purchasing roughly $1 million of the company's common stock in the open market, according to the Feb. 7 company statement.

"I have long been inspired by founder-led companies and their ability to outperform and out-innovate peers," Mr. Immelt said. "Athenahealth has great potential to drive the next wave of disruptive change across the healthcare industry, particularly among medical practices, hospitals and health systems that are challenged by administrative burden and data silos."

Mr. Immelt earned a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics from Hanover, N.H.-based Dartmouth College in 1978 and an MBA from Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard University in 1982.

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