George Hager Jr. is retiring from his role as CEO and director of Genesis HealthCare (NYSE: GEN), the national nursing home and assisted living company announced Tuesday.
The company’s chairman of the board, Robert Fish, has succeeded Hager, effective immediately. Hager will continue to work as an advisor to the board, while Fish will keep his title as chairman of the board.
“I am pleased to become Genesis’ chief executive officer and am excited to lead the company as we look to emerge from the pandemic and navigate to recovery,” Fish said in a statement about the move. “I look forward to sharing my vision and direction for the company in the coming months.”
Genesis is a holding company with subsidiaries spanning 325 skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities in 24 states. Like other skilled nursing operators, the company was hit hard by Covid-19, and in August 2020 warned that its future as a going concern was in “substantial doubt.”
Fish has been a member of the Kennett Square, Pennsylvania-based company’s board since 2013, when he was CEO of Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc., a company that merged with Genesis in 2015. Fish ascended to the chairman role in 2017.
Most recently, Fish worked as president, CEO and director of hospital and outpatient services operator Quorum Health Corporation, a role he held between 2018 and 2020.
“We are fortunate to have Bob step in as a leader with significant experience both inside and outside of Genesis. He brings expertise and continuity essential to Genesis as we continue to navigate the impact of Covid-19 and explore avenues to strengthen the company financially,” Hager said in a statement on his retirement. “It has been my honor to serve and lead this company over the last 17 years.”
Hager first joined Genesis in 1992 as vice president and CFO before moving up the ranks and taking the CEO role in 2003. His tenure at the company included helping to navigate bankruptcy proceedings in 2000.
“I think managing a very complicated restructuring and getting the company back out as a public company in 14 months was a great success, even though no one wants to go through that process,” Hager told Senior Housing News in a 2018 interview. “It was a time that let us take a breather from what was a very significant growth period in the prior six or seven years. I was able to reflect on the things we needed to do to be a better company coming out.”
Hager’s departure comes amid another time of uncertainty for the nursing home giant. The company has discussed potential restructuring options with its financial backers as a result of pressure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Hager said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call with investors and analysts. Those options could include changes to the company’s leases and debt, new joint-venture arrangements, and capitalizing on ancillary business lines.
“It’s hard to give you a percentage or a status of where any of those conversations are,” Hager said during the November 2020 earnings call. “But there are a lot of levers here that can be pulled, and we have been and will continue to be very active at looking at the optimal restructuring alternatives going forward.”