CEO-elect of Ballad Health abruptly retires 1 day before merger launches

Bart Hove, the former CEO of Kingsport, Tenn.-based Wellmont Health System who was slated to serve as CEO of the merged Ballad Health organization, unexpectedly retired Feb. 1.

Ballad Health, which will launch Feb. 2, is the result of a merger between Wellmont Health System and Johnson City, Tenn.-based Mountain States Health Alliance. The organizations, which announced the deal in 2016, received the final approval necessary to complete the merger from the Tennessee Department of Health Jan. 31.

The two entities announced the individuals slated to join the combined system's inaugural board of directors last November. Mr. Hove, who came out of retirement in 2014 to serve as CEO of Wellmont, was named a board member as well as the CEO-designee of Ballad Health.

In a Feb. 1 letter to the Ballad Health board of directors, Mr. Hove wrote, "It is now time to let the newly appointed and capable management team and board lead the healthcare change for our region. At this juncture in the road, it becomes an opportunity for my wife Marsha and me to continue on another journey, and thus I am announcing my retirement effective February 1, 2018. Thank you for having placed the trust and confidence in me to this point."

Alan Levine, who serves as executive chairman-elect and president-elect of Ballad Health, will step in as CEO and consult with the board regarding the future of the organization.

"While Bart's announcement comes as a surprise to all of us, the board and management team of Ballad Health understand his and Marsha's desire to return to retirement," Mr. Levine said in a statement. "Bart has become a close friend, so personally, I'm saddened to see him leave. But he leaves having been a part of creating something important. He truly cares about the people he worked with and the community they serve."

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