Vanguard Health Systems seems a natural place for Keith Pitts to have landed after his hasty exit from Mariner Post-Acute Network several weeks ago.
In a sense, his rejoining the Vanguard team is the latest example of the musical chairs quality of transition among the healthcare industry's leadership.
Pitts comes to Nashville-based Vanguard at a time when the company is knee-deep in potential acquisitions but also has a history of unfulfilled deals, most notably the loss to Tenet Healthcare Corp. in a bidding war for eight Philadelphia-area hospitals divested by Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation last year.
Most recently, Vanguard failed to consummate a deal to buy two hospitals from Catholic Healthcare West (See story, this page).
Vanguard, formed in June 1997 by Charles Martin Jr., has only one hospital, Maryvale Hospital Medical Center in Phoenix, which it bought from Samaritan Health System in June 1998.
Vanguard has entered talks with one of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.'s spinoff companies, Dallas-based Triad Hospitals, to buy two of its California facilities, said James "Denny" Shelton, Triad's chairman and chief executive officer, in a recent interview.
The two hospitals are 135-bed Huntington Beach (Calif.) Hospital and 219-bed West Anaheim Medical Center in Anaheim.
Beth Brisbane, a Vanguard spokeswoman, declined to confirm the deal.
Pitts, who resigned as chairman and CEO at Mariner, was involved with numerous acquisitions and merger deals while at OrNda HealthCorp. He was OrNda's chief financial officer, arriving there in August 1992, seven months after Martin was named that company's president and CEO.
"Keith and Charlie make a tremendous team," said Jeffrey Villwock, healthcare analyst at Robinson-Humphrey Co., Atlanta. "Keith is a very, very well-respected financial executive."
Martin declined to be interviewed for this story, but Pitts said his exact position within Vanguard has yet to be determined and that he does not officially start working there until July.
While acquiring only one hospital in two years can be seen as a failure, Villwock argues it is the result of Martin's deliberate choices not to pay too much for hospitals.