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Sanford, Intermountain halt merger talks

Sanford Health has indefinitely suspended discussions about a planned merger with Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Health because of the abrupt exit of Sanford's longtime president and CEO, Kelby Krabbenhoft.

Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford issued a statement Nov. 24 that the system's board of trustees and Mr. Krabbenhoft "mutually agreed to part ways." The development followed 24 years of Mr. Krabbenhoft's leadership in the top position of the 46-hospital system and days after he wrote an email to 50,000 employees detailing his rationale for not wearing a face covering.

Sanford's board appointed Bill Gassen as the system's new president and CEO. Mr. Gassen was previously chief administrative officer. He has been with Sanford since 2012.

Sanford and Intermountain announced in October they had signed a letter of intent to merge, with completion of the deal expected in 2021. The combination would create a $15 billion, 70-hospital system. Marc Harrison, MD, president and CEO of Intermountain, was set to serve as president and CEO of the new system, while Mr. Krabbenhoft was set to serve as president emeritus. 

In its statement issued Dec. 4, Sanford said it will pause current merger and acquisition activity while it addresses other organizational needs. 

"We are disappointed but understand the recent leadership change at Sanford Health has influenced their priorities," said Marc Harrison, MD, president and CEO of Intermountain. "There's much to admire about the work that Sanford Health is doing. We continue to share a strong vision for the future of healthcare."

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