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Getting a Deal Done on athenahealth Might Be Tough

By Motley Fool Staff - May 14, 2018 at 6:01PM

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Management’s vision might not jibe with an outright sale.

The potential to provide healthcare providers with better solutions for scheduling, billing, and tracking patients' health has activist investors circling athenahealth (ATHN). The company's CEO, Jonathan Bush, might not be interested in selling the company he's run since 1997, though, because Bush's vision for athenahealth may conflict too much with activists' focus on operating profit.

In this clip from The Motley Fool's Industry Focus: Healthcare, analysts Kristine Harjes and Todd Campbell discuss athenahealth's mission and what could be in store for it in the future.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on May 9, 2018.

Todd Campbell: It'll be very interesting to see if any of those other companies emerge and can convince Jonathan Bush to do it. Now, there are a couple of companies that jump to mind that I feel like would be good fits, Kristine.

Kristine Harjes: [laughs] OK, let's do some speculating!

Campbell: Alright! Remember that show we did not that long ago that talked about how Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan and Amazon are teaming up to reshape healthcare in America?

Harjes: Yeah. 

Campbell: Well, they're looking for a leader of that company. So, it would be kind of cool, in a way, if they were able to convince Jonathan Bush, "Hey, we want you to lead this entire initiative. You have this huge vision of how you'd like to reshape healthcare. We'll buy athenahealth, and we'll go from there." Now, that's a little bit of a long shot, but it would seem to make some sense to me, anyway.

Harjes: Here's another reason that I want to add on to that -- Jonathan Bush seems like the personality type to be working at a big tech company. He's this no holds barred kind of character. I remember at his JPMorgan speech this past January, he started out his entire presentation by pointing out his contribution to the diversity of the conference by not being named Michael, which was a reference to an article that had been published by Stat News over the course of the conference that there were more men named Michael presenting at the conference than women at all presenting. Which, whether or not you think that joke was in good taste, his speech was super captivating. You make the point that he might not be the best operational execution type of guy, but he is a visionary, and I could see him leading a big, nebulous initiative like what we were talking about with JPHathAzon.

Campbell: [laughs] Right. HathAzon, that's awesome. And then, the other company that would seem to make a lot of sense to me, Kristine, would be Apple. You know? Think about this, right?

Harjes: OK, sure, it fits right in with that again, tech.

Campbell: Yeah! I mean, Tim Cook has made healthcare a priority for Apple. If you look at the announcement that came out in January, the new Apple Health app actually allows you to integrate athenahealth, and I think Epic is participating, and maybe a third one too, I don't know if it's Cerner or not, in being able to bring all of your health records onto the Apple Health app. So, they've already demonstrated a willingness and an interest in doing this. And I don't know if you remember this or not, Kristine, but there was some chatter last summer, summer of 2017, I think it was maybe a Citibank analyst who came out and floated the balloon that maybe it would be a good idea for Apple to knock on athenahealth's door.

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