Kent Thiry Resigns as DaVita Chair and CEO

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Kent Thiry has resigned as chairman and chief executive officer of DaVita (Denver, CO), one of the largest kidney care services companies in the world. After 20 years in the role, the colorful CEO was practically synonymous with the company.

MarketWatch reports that he will transition to executive chairman of DaVita. Javier Rodriguez takes over as CEO of the company (after serving as CEO of DaVita Kidney Care).

When Thiry took over the business in 1999, it was called Total Renal Care. Chief Executive Magazine in 2009 wrote rhapsodically about what the CEO had managed to accomplish in 10 years:

  • Employee turnover decreased by 50% between 1999 and 2005.

  • A 1999 year-end loss of $417.3 million on revenue of $1.45 billion by the year 2004 was turned into net income of $222.3 million on revenue of $2.3 billion. (At the end of calendar year 2018, DaVita had net income of $333 million and total revenues were $11.4 billion.)

  • A 2004 purchase of US clinics from Swedish dialysis firm Gambro nearly doubled the size of the company.

Thiry will be remembered for intimate team-building, as well as for turning around a company in crisis after he arrived in 1999. He also made an impression within the organization—and to outside Thiry-watchers. Employees named the company DaVita (Italian for “giving life”), and the company became known internally as a “village” where Thiry presided as “mayor.” Employees were known hence as “citizens” and “teammates.”

The New York Times, Denver Post, and others have written about his proclivity for dressing as one of the Three Musketeers and proclaiming, “All for one, one for all.”

Thiry’s two-decade tenure, begun at age 43, wasn’t without controversy. While Thiry led the company, DaVita had to settle several lawsuits, including a recent one for three wrongful patient deaths, another for physician “kickback” practices, and a federal suit that violated the False Claims Act.

Business schools have studied DaVita’s somewhat unorthodox approaches to team efforts and success in shaving seconds off dialysis procedures in order to create envied labor-hour-per-treatment statistics.