Aggressive and opinionated are the adjectives people often use to describe the man who has taken the investor-owned hospital industry by storm.
Yet Rick Scott, the president and chief executive officer of the giant Columbia/HCA chain, in some ways remains the soft-spoken, frugal boy of the Midwest.
When Mr. Scott, 41, was going to school in North Kansas City, Mo., he often sat in the back row of classrooms so he wouldn't be noticed. Now, he's on center stage-the healthcare industry's "boy wonder," as a recent Forbes magazine profile called him.
This month, when he visited Columbia's Audubon Regional Medical Center in Louisville, Ky., his every move was taped for a company video-talking with nurses, shaking hands with admissions clerks. He smiled, somewhat uncomfortable as the star of this "movie," but he was dutiful in meeting and greeting.
He comes across as a nice guy who made it big. After all, he parlayed a $125,000 investment in Columbia into a $180 million equity stake today.
It's difficult to believe that Rick Scott-almost completely unknown to Louisville six months ago-recently was named the third "most feared" person in the city. That's according a poll in this month's Louisville magazine. (Humana founder David Jones was named "most feared.") The magazine also ranked Mr. Scott the seventh most powerful person in the city.
Powerful, yes. And perhaps the fear stems from the fact that he could yank one of the city's largest corporations out from under its grasp. Columbia/HCA has yet to decide whether it will be based in Louisville or Nashville, Tenn.
Now, Mr. Scott is slowly going through the metamorphosis from a face in the crowd to an industry spokesman. He rails against President Clinton's healthcare reform plan, which he says could "ruin the Cadillac industry we have today." It's no coincidence that a photo of him shaking hands with Senate leader Bob Dole (R.-Kan.), an opponent of Mr. Clinton's plan, is conspicuously evident in Mr. Scott's office.
Expect to hear more from Mr. Scott about health policy. He spends a fourth of his time on these issues and works with various groups such as the Business Roundtable, which recently endorsed a healthcare plan that rivals the president's.