Death of Sherif Abdelhak, former health system CEO, reported one year later

Sherif S. Abdelhak, past CEO of former Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation, died privately last year in Florida at age 68 after an 18-month battle with cancer, according to

AHERF, once the largest health system in Pennsylvania and the largest nonprofit insolvency in U.S. history, at its peak had 30,000 employees, two medical schools and 14 hospitals across two states, collapsed in 1998.

AHERF went bankrupt after purchasing two medical schools and eight hospitals in Philadelphia. Mr. Abdelhak was blamed for the failure after not acknowledging the system had stretched itself too thin until the financial damage was beyond repair — the system lost about $1 million a day, and owed creditors nearly $1.5 billion altogether.

Mr. Abdelhak was charged with more than 1,500 counts related to AHERF's downfall, and in 2002 pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of misusing charitable funds. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison, which he was permitted to serve in alternate housing. After serving his sentence, Mr. Abdelhak divorced his second wife, a former TV anchor and now a physician, who at the time of AHERF's collapse served as the foundation's director of public relations, according to the report.

Mr. Abdelhak's business problems continued after he got out of prison, such as a failed venture in which he was accused of attempting to illegally purchase oil from Iraq or Iran. He filed for personal bankruptcy in 2004 and was ordered to return $500,000 in taxes, according to the report.

John Abdelhak, one of Mr. Abdelhak's sons, said his father carried a heavy burden from what happened with AHERF, and his death was intentionally quiet.

"He was a loving father, but he never really recovered after that ordeal with the hospital," John Abdelhak said of his father, according to the report.

Mr. Abdelhak's death certificate lists his name as Abel, the name his third wife, Anna, uses, and none of his sons or his current wife took out obituaries.

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