After more than 40 years of providing senior living services to Canadian seniors, Ontario’s largest owner-operator says it’s time for a name change—to one that doesn’t conjure images of a theme park.
On May 1, Ontario-based Leisureworld Senior Care Corporation (TSX: LW) officially started doing business as Sienna Senior Living, Inc., a week following the company’s annual shareholder meeting held April 21.
The company is the largest licensed long-term care provider in Ontario, owning and operating 35 long-term care homes and 10 retirement residences in 45 locations, with only three of the latter properties located outside the province in British Columbia.
For most of Leisureworld’s existence, its roots had been in the long-term care operating space, a sector similar to traditional assisted living and nursing care in the U.S. in terms of services, but operating on a different business model.
Unlike the U.S., long-term care in Ontario is funded by the government, which pays for all personal and nursing care. Residents are, however, required to pay for accommodation charges such as room and board. They are also required to undergo a screening and application process to be eligible to live in a long-term care home.
Though long-term care remains a large chunk of Leisureworld’s portfolio, the company began to diversify into retirement living—primarily private pay independent and assisted living—in the years following its completion of a $190 million initial public offering in March 2010, said Lois Cormack, president and CEO of Leisureworld.
A notable acquisition that occurred during that time was a $254 million purchase of six long-term care homes, two retirement residences and two properties containing a combination of both property types in April 2013.
The transaction, which comprised a total of 1,235 long-term care beds and 326 retirement residences, also included the acquisition of the third-party senior living management business operated by Specialty Care Inc., a private, family-owned Canadian operator at which Cormack served as president.
“All of that growth and diversification begged the question to go back and look at our vision and mission,” Cormack told SHN. “Where we came to on that is it’s all about the community we serve and not about the parent company.”
Prior to the rebrand, the company had been carrying around a number of disparate sub-brands such as Specialty Care and the “Royale” brand for high-end retirement homes.
“This was an opportunity to align the whole company around a common brand,” Cormack said. “We’re a diversified senior living provider and we have new a direction. Sienna lines up with our whole new vision, mission and direction.”
Furthermore, the name Leisureworld by itself seemed to have an unintended connotation associated with it, Cormack said, typically one that did not necessarily draw an immediate connection to senior living.
“We would often hear ‘is that a theme park?’” she said.
But of all the names to choose from, why Sienna Senior Living? The answer has mostly to do with the warm, earthy characterization of the term “sienna,” more than the reddish-brown color with which it often is associated.
“Our brand philosophy is the warmth of the human connection,” Cormack said. “We looked at a lot of names, but Sienna resonated with us. It’s graceful and warm—it has a meaning we can ascribe to it over time.”
As part of the rebranding process, the company has renamed each of its 45 locations as a way to “awaken” these communities from their previous naming formula of having “Leisureworld” precede the town of the community in which the property is located.
For example, under the new Sienna banner, properties like Leisureworld Ingersoll in Ontario has become Seacord Trails Care Community, while Leisureworld Caregiving Centre Ellesmere (also in Ontario) is now Fieldstone Commons Care Community.
In terms of the total investment, Leisureworld estimates that the total enterprise-wide rebranding efforts represents a spend of about $500,000, an expenditure that also extends to changing the company’s digital strategy, including website revamps.
“The response to this new brand direction has been very positive and we look forward to bringing it to life in 2015,” Cormack said.
During its shareholders meeting last month, Leisureworld also announced it has received conditional approval of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) to trade under the new stockticker “SIA.”
Written by Jason Oliva