Sonata Senior Living Revamps C-Suite Team with Eye on Future Growth 

Florida-based Sonata Senior Living is gearing up for a period of growth as the company announced a leadership reorganization.

Co-Founder and former CEO Stuart Beebe has been named managing partner of the company. Co-founder and former Chief Operations Officers Shelley Esden is the new president and CEO. And Sonata also has tapped Brookdale veteran Jamie Merrill to replace Esden as COO.

Sonata is the owner, developer and operator of IL, AL and memory care communities across Florida totaling 1,090 units. The company’s partners include Fortress Investment Group (NYSE: FIG), which last year acquired five communities formerly owned by Healthpeak in a $64 million deal.


“Over the past few years, we have taken advantage of the opportunity to strengthen our team and build a very strong tenured middle management and senior management team focused on delivering on our promises to our residents and our team members,” Esden told Senior Housing News.

Sonata will focus on continuing to integrate technology within its communities with an emphasis on innovation and preparing for future growth, Esden told SHN.

The company recently installed an acquisitions and development team, along with acquisition turnkey programs that will allow the company to “expand that velocity for growth,” she added.


The leadership changes come as Esden said Sonata, like all other senior living providers, face strong headwinds related to workforce and staffing challenges, mixed with rising expenses and inflationary pressures.

Sonata also hired Merrill, who had overseen over 70 communities in Florida for Brookdale,to serve as COO following Esden’s promotion.

“We’re putting an operationally-focused COO in place so that we can ensure that acquisitions and any potential future development receive a laser focus,” Esden said, adding that she will work with Merrill to focus on improving the company’s culture and enhance Sonata’s “employee-centric environment.”

The pair will hit the road soon and visit all of the company’s communities in its portfolio, something that was a challenge over the last two years due to Covid-19.

In the near-term, Esden said the company’s biggest challenge remains operational, based around staffing issues, from retaining talent to attracting qualified workers. To improve communication and start getting to the root of the problem, Sonata in the next 30 days will implement an automated survey for new hires and residents regarding onboarding, Esden said.

“That’s really going to be a big game-changer in terms of accountability,” she added.

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