New Discovery COO: We Want to Create Resident Experiences That Set Us Apart

With 18 years at luxury CCRC developer, owner and operator Vi Living — the last two as COO — Bill Sciortino was in high demand with executive search firms across the country.

But when recruiters called called him with job openings, Sciortino would pass, he told Senior Housing News.

“I pretty much dismissed every [opportunity] that came across my desk and told the headhunters, ‘Let me connect you with someone who can fill the role,’” he said.

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That changed in the spring when an executive recruiter called Sciortino with an offer about a new role at Discovery Senior Living, which turned out to be an offer he could not refuse: Discovery announced Sciortino as its new COO on Aug. 5.

It is a new role for the Bonita Springs, Florida-based company, which is in the midst of a significant period of growth through acquisitions and development, in an industry that is only beginning to recognize the challenges of meeting the demands for senior housing for future generations.

“For where I’m at at this point in my career, this was a good opportunity to listen to,” Sciortino said.

A bridge between management and investor

Sciortino joins Discovery as the company deepens its relationships with three of the most active health care real estate investment trusts in the industry: Toledo, Ohio-based Welltower (NYSE: WELL); Irvine, California-based HCP (NYSE: HCP) and Murfreesboro, Tennessee-based National Health Investors (NYSE: NHI).

In May, Discovery sold nine senior housing properties to HCP for $445 million, and HCP is providing Discovery with up to $40 million of junior financing on four new properties representing 724 units and set to be developed and operated by Discovery.

Discovery and NHI agreed to a $128.4 million joint venture in June to acquire six properties in Indiana, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The company also expanded its relationship with Welltower via a $237 million acquisition of three senior housing campuses in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Texas markets, as well as an exclusive, $1 billion development deal.

Discovery’s portfolio includes 57 communities in 14 states totaling over 9,500 units, over half of it independent living and senior apartments.

Sciortino will initially be tasked with a specific set of priorities. He will work with Discovery management on recruiting regional teams to drive revenues and operations. And he will serve as a liaison between Discovery’s executive team and major investors to ensure all parties are in alignment with expectations and long-term objectives.

Sciortino will also serve as a conduit for Discovery CEO Richard Hutchinson, and the two are already in alignment.

“I’ll be a voice for field operations and another person on the management team who is accountable for results,” Sciortino said. “Everyone wants realistic expectations.”

Cementing culture

Sciortino also plans on cementing Discovery’s workplace culture across its growing portfolio, which can prove difficult at the pace the company is growing.

“That can be hard as we add more communities. We want to be doing things the Discovery way and we want to be creating these experiences for our residents that will set us apart,” he said.

Hutchinson told SHN in April that the industry is at an inflection point where the future involves customizing the resident experience.

The Discovery portfolio is a marked increase in scale for Sciortino, who managed operations of 10 continuing care retirement communities for Chicago-based Vi Living. Discovery’s focus on expanding its active adult segment is a linchpin in its future growth.

Sciortino believes Discovery has set the stage to meet this future demand, and analytics will play a role, as well as his experience dealing with the high expectations of customers at Vi’s CCRCs. Today’s customer wants some level of luxury at every price point, and future customers want to have a choice in customizing their living experiences.

“The challenge is delivering ‘wow’ at whatever price point that is,” he said. “It will be a challenge to be nimble and understand the costs involved.”

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