Athenahealth CEO, Co-Founder Steps Down, Sale of Company May be Near

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Jonathan Bush, CEO, president and co-founder of Athenahealth, has stepped down, and the Watertown-based company may be sold, company officials announced Wednesday. 

Reports surfaced last week of complaints against Bush acting inappropriate with female employees at an industry, and in late May it was reported that he had physically assaulted his now ex-wife more than a decade ago. Bush is a nephew of former President George H.W. Bush.

At the same time, the health care technology company has been the target of activist hedge fund Elliot Management Corp., which made an offer to purchase the company for $160 a share. The fund contends that Athena had been mismanaged.

On Wednesday, Athenahealth officials released a statement announcing Bush’s departure. In the interim, Jeff Immelt, Chairman of Athenahealth, has been appointed Executive Chairman. He was appointed chairman of Athenahealth’s board on February 7, 2018, and served as Chairman and CEO of GE from 2001 to 2017.

New York Investment Fund Makes Cash Offer to Purchase Watertown’s Athenahealth

Immelt said at the same time that Athena’s Board of Directors searches for a new CEO, it will also consider the future of the company.

“…  the Board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives, including a potential sale or merger or continuing as an independent company under new leadership,” Immelt said in a statement. “We approach this process with an open mind and a commitment to continuing to strengthen the company — including its rich data asset, platform strategy, and culture of innovation. We are fully focused on serving the best interests of our shareholders, employees and clients.”

Athenahealth’s headquarters are in the Arsenal on the Charles, which the company purchased from Harvard University. A major renovation and expansion project is currently underway at the complex on Arsenal Street.

The company also has entered an agreement, called I-Cubed with the Town of Watertown and the Department of Conservation and Recreation to do $25 million of infrastructure improvements around the Arsenal on the Charles.

Council Backs $25 Million in Improvements, Some Question Openness of Process

10 thoughts on “Athenahealth CEO, Co-Founder Steps Down, Sale of Company May be Near

  1. Immelt spoke the necessary corporate speak. He’s now the boss since he has the requisite experience in selling off businesses during his stint with GE. Athena will be sold off, the bulk of the programming jobs will migrate off shore and the gated Arsenal Yards dream of Jonathan Bush will be the next Watertown nightmare.

  2. This article and its links leave me/us hanging. Marvin Gaye’s song “ What’s Going On” keeps running through my head.

    What are the implications for Watertown and the $25M I-cubed investment for infrastructure which are tied to Athena’s employment figures? Has the state clock started ticking on this agreement? Should Athena sell or move, can management break up the campus and sell it off in pieces? If so, is there any obligation for Athena to complete certain structures or finish certain improvements? Mike Driscoll, Town Manager, negotiated a contingency fund of $3+M. What are the parameters regarding access and use of this fund? How will Mr. Bush’s departure effect his investment in Arsenal Yards? Should Athena be sold, downsized, or move how will all those rental units on Arsenal Street be effected given the potential evaporation of all those new employees?

    Now to digress for a moment – Should we factor in the proposed “King Kong” condo building of 197’ at Arsenal Yards and future height implications for other sites in the RMUD zone? There are so many questions. To whom do I pose these questions?

    So I’m asking you – my town, is it time for a series of Watertown community meetings? Is it time to review our aspirations for our future as outlined in the 2015 Comprehensive Plan and ask what’s gone right, wrong, or needs to be recalibrated? Most importantly – who informs, speaks and advocates for us, the various constituencies of folks that contribute to giving Watertown its heart and soul?

    I am not anti-business, anti-profit, anti-change. But, I am for us – residents of this community – to have serious, informed, transparent communication with “accountable” leadership regarding the ongoing development and management of our town. So ask yourself the big question, the elephant in the room question – Is it time for a mayor?

  3. Elodia, you are correct that Watertown requires extremely tough leadership right now. We are dealing with a hedge fund now, and the only way to get a hedge fund to do the right thing is with a gun to its head. At the moment, however, developers are running the show, and we don’t even have a full-time paid council. We need someone with the guts to threaten eminent domain and resale if need be. Do we have that? I don’t know whether a mayor is an answer but something needs to be done.

  4. Yes, I think it is time for a different form of government. I do not say this to criticize our dedicated, hard working politicians. We currently have many excellent local politicians in Watertown, but in the current structure of government, our council and multiple appointed boards just don’t seem be positioned to stay on top of all of this. Athena’s demise is a big deal in many, many ways for our town and if the new owners are not committed to keeping the Arsenal complex as a headquarters, or even a business site, then what does that mean for the proposed developments, new (possibly unnecessary) parking garage, property improvements as a whole and of course . . . the $25 million I-Cubed dollars for local infrastructure improvements?

    • It was long before my time living here, but I’ve stated many times to Watertown born and raised residents, this town gave up a lot of its say in matters when they did away with a town meeting form of government. I know it will never happen, but I would more than welcome its resurgence, hell… I would run for office myself.

  5. I agree Bob Lauricella, but for those who desire transparent communication, input regarding the future of our town, and accountability ~ we must begin the discussion and work now.

    Regarding the big issues at hand:

    First, has anyone heard anything about Athena and where we stand regarding the $25M of I-cubed infrastructure improvements? Does anyone wonder who will be filling all these luxury apartments given traffic, transportation issues, and the potential loss of a major employer? Again, serious questions, still no public discussion.

    Second, Boylston Properties (BP) has already held at least one private meeting at the Oakley Country Club to sell the “new and improved” 197’ Building G condo project to certain folks in our community. The building would be narrower on the east and west sides but 67’ taller than the allowed 130’ by present zoning and 107’8” taller than Building F. Note: It’s the same 140 units either way, just more money given the view potential.

    If BP gets additional height, it will increase their property value should they sell/broker this piece of the project to another developer/partner. Who will we be getting into bed with now? I asked Community Development & Planning if a plan is available. They said not yet. But given the Oakley meeting, some folks have seen something. This is a solid BP money shot. More condo floors = more views on the east, south, and west side. The north side is going to be a tough sell as the first 7+/- floors will be looking at building F which is 89’4” tall. If approved, the roadway would be wider. Will the G entrance be moved to the north side? That might be more attractive than having it overlooking the Home Depot parking lot. Does any of this benefit the Watertown community? A taller building looming over Arsenal Park and the Charles River, a few more floors, a few more million dollar (?) condos, that produce a few more tax revenue dollars. Is this what you want for our town given our precious little green space and our slice of the Charles River?

    Holding private meetings to influence key supporters is not illegal. That’s BP’s right. That’s smart, aggressive business strategy. Are they priming their supporters for the Community meeting on June 18th at Arsenal Yards 6:30-8:00pm? The tom-tom’s are beating out messages: “Think of all the the additional tax revenue those floors will bring.” “An iconic building will be symbolic of the “new” Watertown.” “Tall buildings and more density will bring excitement to our town and lower the rental rates.” This proposal will go before the Planning Board for a hearing. If approved, BP will ultimately need six votes from the Town Council to get final approval for additional height. What do YOU think about all this?

    Now add in this info. Next Wednesday, June 13, 4:00-6:30pm at the Town Council Chamber there will be a meeting regarding the final conceptual design plan for Arsenal Park. The Conservation Commission (ConCom) has care, custody and control of this Park. Many of us attended the community meetings and generated ideas for the park. The ConCom reviewed designs and made a recommendation to move forward with a final plan. But what plan options were we/they looking at? We were never informed about a potential 197’ building at the east end of the park. I’m guessing the ConCom was not invited to the Oakley Country Club marketing event. Were you? H-mmm. And now ask, where is the money coming from for the park improvements? BP stated early-on that they would commit some funding (how much?) to clean up and freshen up the park. After all, that would benefit their project. A smart move and a “community investment”. Will this funding be contingent on getting their height?

    Let us not forget the series of educational community meetings in 2016 organized by Sustainable Watertown and all the thoughtful comments and serious concerns raised by our citizens regarding this RMUD zoning change. The height compromise that was reached, to the distress of many, was a cap of 130’.

    If any of this concerns you, write your Councilors, attend these meetings, and add your comments to this thread. Don’t presume that someone else will voice your concerns. There is much commentary on the various websites, yet few people attend critical meetings.

    So rather than venting on social media, please show up and make your concerns, ideas, and opinions known.

    Your town needs you!

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