Brookdale Taps Walmart Exec to be COO

In its quest to get through a turbulent period, the nation’s largest senior living company is enlisting someone from the nation’s largest retailer.

Labeed Diab will be the new chief operating officer at Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD), the Brentwood, Tennessee-based provider announced Monday. Diab previously served as president of health and wellness at Walmart’s U.S. division, responsible for the organization’s full-service health and wellness offerings, including vision centers and primary care clinics, comprising approximately 5,000 nationwide locations with more than 85,000 associates. Prior to that, he was the president of Walmart’s Midwest division.

Diab’s arrival—which comes after former COO Gregory Richard resigned—is part of a larger executive team shakeup at Brookdale.

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Also coming on board is Lucinda (Cindy) Baier as chief financial officer. She most recently served as executive vice president and CFO of Navigant Consulting, Inc., a specialized global expert services firm.

Mary Sue Patchett has been promoted to executive vice president-community and field operations, from her current position as president of the company’s Southeast division.

As previously announced, current President and CFO Mark Ohlendorf will step down from the chief financial officer position when Baier joins the company, which is expected to happen on Dec. 1, according to a press release. Ohlendorf will continue to serve as president.

“I am excited to welcome Labeed and Cindy, who bring decades of executive experience in large organizations with complex multi-site businesses, to help lead our organization,” said CEO Andy Smith, in a prepared statement. “Labeed’s mix of retail and health and wellness operational leadership experience is uniquely suited for Brookdale, and we will rely on his expertise to create stockholder value through improvements to our operational effectiveness. Cindy brings to Brookdale extensive financial and strategic experience in a diverse set of industries. We will count on her leadership as we work to leverage our opportunities to create value and achieve long-term growth.”

The new additions to Brookdale’s leadership team were announced just two days before the company’s scheduled release of third quarter 2015 results.

The blockbuster acquisition of Emeritus Senior Living in 2014 gave Brookdale a massive share of the U.S. senior housing market; it now encompasses more than 1,100 communities with about 110,000 total residents. But the consolidation has been beset by issues, including turnover at the community level and marketing efforts that failed to gain traction. With occupancy down and shareholders pushing the company to spin off its real estate to unlock value, talk that the whole company might be a takeover target arose.

The C-Suite shakeup—along with other initiatives such as a national advertising campaign—is one step that the provider is taking to right the ship. The company also appointed new members to its board of directors in April.

The markets responded positively to this latest action, with Brookdale shares jumping 15% in after hours trading following news of the hires.

Written by Tim Mullaney

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