Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. has agreed to sell its erstwhile foothold in the Massachusetts market, MetroWest Medical Center, to Tenet Healthcare Corp., ending a bidding battle for the strategic two-hospital operation west of Boston.
MetroWest was lumped into a 45-hospital spinoff company last November as part of Columbia's proposed restructuring, but a line of suitors formed outside the door immediately afterward.
Tenet last week signed a letter of intent to acquire Columbia's 80% interest in MetroWest, which includes facilities in Framingham and Natick, pending regulatory reviews and negotiation of a definitive agreement.
Tenet gained approval a week earlier from a community group formed to control the 20% stake retained locally after the March 1996 transaction with Columbia.
Terms were not disclosed, but news reports in the Boston area pegged the Tenet offer at between $60 million and $80 million. Columbia originally paid $67.5 million for the 80% stake.
That transaction two years ago made Columbia a lightning rod for sentiment against for-profit inroads in Massachusetts. Tenet drew similar public concern when it entered the Massachusetts market by acquiring OrNda HealthCorp, which had acquired St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester in September 1996.
Tenet late last year tried unsuccessfully to acquire HealthAlliance, a two-facility system based in Leominster. But in conceding, Tenet reaffirmed an intent to continue a path of expansion outside Worcester. The MetroWest facilities are located midway between Worcester and Boston.
Other hospital organizations expressing interest in MetroWest included Lifespan; two Boston-based regional systems, CareGroup and Caritas Christi; Memorial Health Care, Worcester; and Vanguard Health Systems, Nashville.