THILO D. BEST TREASURE, SVP FINANCE
Holiday Retirement Corp.
Best began his career in senior housing in 1984, working with a small, Nashville, Tenn.-based in-vestment bank specializing in healthcare lending. Since then, he has negotiated and closed more than $2.5 billion worth of senior housing financing.
Best joined Holiday Retirement Corp. in 1994 after serving as vice president for Prudential Realty Group for seven years, founding and managing Prudential's National Senior Housing Lending Program.
Holiday Retirement Corp., with related entities, is the largest owner and operator of retirement housing in the United States. Since its founding in 1971, the company's business has grown to include the management of more than 225 retirement facilities, consisting of nearly 27,000 units located in 39 states, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Like many of his peers, Best cites a lack of access to capital as a major challenge facing many sectors of the senior housing industry today.
"Most, if not all the publicly held assisted-living companies have seen reductions in their stock prices," he notes, the result of the negative perceptions of the industry promulgated by a number of stock analysts. This makes raising equity a difficult task. "In a capital-intensive industry such as assisted living," he adds, "not having access to competitively priced equity money is a real concern."
Overbuilding is also a challenge facing the senior housing industry. According to Best, "Although, by and large, this is only apparent in certain markets and is largely confined to the assisted living sector."
ASHA membership is a valuable resource in facing these challenges, Best notes. "ASHA focuses on the issues that concern senior housing owners and operators," he says, adding that, "As an organization, it's small enough for the members to get to know each other and work together - but it's big enough to make things happen."
GEORGE L. CHAPMAN CHAIRMAN, CEO, PRESIDENT, DIRECTOR
Health Care REIT Inc.
A graduate of Cornell University and the University of Chicago Law School, Chapman became outside counsel for Health Care REIT Inc. (NYSE:HCN) in 1978. He was appointed chairman and CEO of the company in 1996.
Formed in 1970 as the first real estate investment trust to invest exclusively in health care facilities, Health Care REIT Inc. invests primarily in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and retirement centers.
As of mid-1999, the company had $1.2 billion of gross real estate investments in 239 facilities located in 35 states and managed by 40 different operators. At that time, the portfolio included 166 assisted living facilities; 50 nursing homes; 15 retirement centers; six specialty care facilities; and two behavioral care facilities.
Major challenges to components of the seniors housing industry, according to Chapman, include changes in Medicare reimbursement for nursing home facilities from cost-based to diagnosis-related systems. "This is a tough adjustment for a number of nursing home operators to make," he says, "and to some extent, has had the impact of cutting into muscle and bone, as opposed to just eliminating fat."
Current concerns about overbuilding of assisted living facilities are overblown, adds Chapman. "In certain locations, this has occurred," he notes. "But, on a national basis, there is still a great need for additional facilities. They have been very successful in providing quality care to the elderly in a well environment. So, with good underwriting to avoid any kind of local market demand/supply issues, we don't think this is a problem whatsoever."
Overall, "Long-term care, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are demand-driven," says Chapman. The growing elderly population provides overwhelming demographic support for these types of facilities, he notes, making them - from the investment standpoint - "the safest, most conservative parts of the health care delivery system."
CHRISTOPHER J. COATES PRESIDENT AND CEO
American Retirement Corporation
Coates got his start in the seniors housing industry while he was a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1972. He was working part-time as a manager of a student-housing complex there when it was sold to Christian Services Inc. for conversion into a market-rate congregate care facility. Coates remained on board as administrator of the community, later working his way up the ladder to become executive vice president of the company in 1979.
Coates formed his own company, National Retirement Consultants Inc., a fee-based marketing and management consultant, in 1980. From 1985 to 1988, he served as senior director of the Retirement Housing Division of Radice Corp., and from 1988 to 1993, as CEO of National Retirement Co., a senior living management company acquired by American Retirement Corp. in 1993.
Since then, Coates has served as president and COO of American Retirement Corp., where he directs the company's operating portfolio of more than 12,000 independent living, assisted living and nursing home units/beds.
Founded in 1978 by a group that included the principal founders of Hospital Corp. of America, American Retirement Corp. became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:ACR) in 1997. The company's stated strategy is "to develop senior living networks in major metropolitan regions," these networks comprised of "large continuing care retirement communities and free-standing assisted living residences located in the same markets."
The company currently operates 49 senior living communities in 16 states with an aggregate capacity for approximately 13,000 residents. Meanwhile, it is now developing, constructing and/or expanding to add capacity for another 3,700 residents.
Coates sees two issues confronting the seniors housing industry over the short term. "There are some concerns about overbuilding in the assisted living segment of the industry," he notes. "And from the operations perspective, there is the continuing problem of access to qualified and affordable labor."
A past chairman and current executive board member of ASHA, Coates says that membership in the organization provides a number of benefits. "The research studies that ASHA puts out are very insightful and provide useful information for operators," he says. "ASHA also does a great job in monitoring pending federal and state-level legislation - and they do it in a timely manner, giving us enough early warning so that we have time to impact the final product."
JOHN C. ERICKSON CHAIRMAN AND CEO
Senior Campus Living
Erickson's career in the seniors housing industry began in the 1970s when his California-based investment company acquired more than 3,000 moderate-income retirement housing units at four sites on Florida's Gulf Coast.
While directing this company, Erickson formulated a strategy for a more service-oriented, life-care retirement type of community. In 1983 he founded the 110-acre Charlestown Retirement Community near Baltimore. With more than 2,500 residents, Charlestown is now the nation's largest continuing care retirement community.
Erickson also directed the development of the 35-acre Henry Ford Village retirement community in Dearborn, Mich., and the 85-acre Oak Crest Village retirement community in Parkville, Md.
Erickson now leads a five-year expansion plan in which communities modeled on the Charlestown prototype will be developed by Senior Campus Living (SCL) along the East Coast.
PENNY PRITZKER CHAIRMAN
Classic Residence by Hyatt
A 1981 graduate of Harvard who earned JD and MBA degrees from Stanford in 1985, Pritzker founded Classic Residence by Hyatt in 1988. She began this senior-living affiliate of Hyatt Corp. after a period of focusing her efforts on hotel development.
Pritzker is also chairman of the executive committee of Encore Senior Living, an assisted living company that specializes in Alzheimer's and dementia care. In addition, she now serves as president and founder of Pritzker Realty Group, which has developed more than $2 billion of real estate - from apartments to retail malls - across the United States.
Classic Residence by Hyatt currently has approximately 3,000 units in operation, with another 1,700 under development, in 13 states. Approximately 11% of these units are of the assisted-living variety. Meanwhile, the company's life care communities are structured to provide residents with guaranteed access to assisted living, skilled nursing and Alzheimer's care services as needed.
The spector of overbuilding, along with what she calls "the erratic nature of the capital markets when it comes to senior housing," are the two major problems facing the senior housing industry today, according to Pritzker.
"There hasn't been enough understanding of just how deep the markets are for the various types of senior housing," she notes, leading to a situation where "for several years there was a tremendous amount of money pouring into the industry - followed now by a real tightening."
The ability to attract good management talent is another challenge facing the industry, according to Pritzker. One of several ways involvement in ASHA is beneficial is in developing such talent.
"ASHA has been very useful for a number of our employees," she adds, "in providing them with opportunities for both professional and career development."
MARK J. SCHULTE PRESIDENT AND CEO
Brookdale Living Communities Inc.
An attorney by profession, Schulte had 13 years of experience in the development and operation of multifamily housing, assisted living and health care facilities prior to joining The Prime Group Inc. as executive vice president and Senior Housing Division head in 1991. He has been president and CEO of Prime's successor company, Brookdale Living Communities Inc. (NASDAQ:BLCI), since it went public in 1997.
Brookdale provides independent and assisted-living services to the elderly through facilities located in major metropolitan markets. Its facilities average 220 units, providing both independent and assisted living on the same site. Current operations include 21 properties in 12 states for an aggregate 4,600 units, with a total resident capacity of approximately 5,500.
The biggest issue facing the seniors housing industry is keeping up with the many faces of market demand, according to Schulte. "As the senior housing sector continues to evolve, we have to recognize that there are a lot of different ways to house and care for seniors," he says. "As their numbers grow and life expectancies lengthen, members of the seniors/consumers market are demanding - and providers will have to deliver - more creative products and services in everything from home health care to assisted living through long-term care."
Involvement in ASHA has benefits at a number of levels, Schulte says. "Personally, I enjoy the opportunities it provides to get together with providers, developers and others that are involved in the seniors housing industry." In addition, ASHA lobbying efforts, he says, "help make sure that state and federal legislators understand what we as an industry are doing and what our interests are." And lastly, he adds, "ASHA does a great job of providing education about our industry to both members and the public at large."
BRIAN C. SWINTON EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
Sunrise Assisted Living Inc.
A 1977 Harvard Business School graduate with a background in real estate development and marketing, Brian Swinton was hired by Marriott International to set up its assisted-living business in 1986. During his seven-year tenure as vice president of sales, marketing and product development for the senior living division, he developed and created the "Bright Gardens" assisted-living product line.
Swinton is now executive vice president of Sunrise Assisted Living Inc. (NASDAQ:SNRZ), one of the nation's oldest and largest providers of assisted living for seniors who can no longer live on their own, but who do not need complex medical care. The company opened its first community in 1981; today, it operates 128 assisted living communities in 22 states with a resident capacity of more than 9,900.
ASHA's role in providing research for, and acting as an advocate of, seniors housing is very important these days, especially from the standpoint of the assisted-living provider, according to Swinton. The more the public knows about the industry, the better - especially for publicly held companies such as Sunrise.
"The assisted living sector has never been fully understood," says Swinton. "Today, our (Sunrise's) occupancies are at an all-time high, customer satisfaction is at its highest point, we have more projects under construction than at any other time, and our business has never been better.
"But our stock price," he continues, "is lower than a year ago, when things where not going as well as today."
Marketplace concerns over increasing regulation of the assisted living industry may be one reason behind what Swinton calls "the frustration of having things go so well, but not be reflected in stock price." Yet, these concerns may be overblown.
"A little regulation is not altogether bad," he adds. "It is, in some ways, an inconvenience, but it also can be a blessing when it protects customers and the legitimate companies active in the industry."
One real challenge the industry faces, though, is finding good employees, according to Swinton. "Fewer and fewer people are willing to work in this kind of service business for an hourly wage," he says, "which makes hiring - and training - these people a major issue we have to deal with."
STAN G. THURSTON PRESIDENT AND CEO
Life Care Services
Des Moines, IA
After receiving his MBA from Harvard Graduate School of Business Admin-istration in 1974, Thurston began his career in the residential development business in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. After three years, he started looking for new opportunities in the Midwestern United States. "And pretty much by chance, I hooked up with Life Care Services," he recalls, "which, at the time, was a relatively small company."
Established in 1971 under the name Christian Home Services Inc., Life Care Services Corp. currently manages 65 communities (28 developed by the company, 37 developed by others) that house some 19,000 residents. The majority of these are continuing-care retirement communities (CCRCs), followed by congregate care, assisted living and condominium facilities. Additionally, Life Care Services operates home health agency offices in eight states.
After serving as project development manager, executive vice president and president/COO, Thurston became president and CEO of Life Care Services in 1995. From his standpoint, the major issues facing the seniors housing industry include ongoing cost and pricing pressures; increasing regulation of the industry; and changes in the way Medicare reimburses providers of skilled nursing care.
Involvement with ASHA has a number of benefits, according to Thurston. "On the professional level, ASHA provides many opportunities for people in the (seniors housing) industry to interact with their peers," he notes. And at the same time, "ASHA is a wonderful forum for people in our industry, giving us a place where we can discuss issues in a clear, logical and rational manner."