Health-care exec Scott Mercy dies in plane crash

[UPDATE Wed 7:37 am May 31; first filed Tue 11:50]Scott Mercy was chairman and CEO of LifePoint Hospitals Inc. and chairman of America Service Group. His single-engine plane crashed in Smyrna.

Scott L. Mercy, chairman and chief executive of LifePoint Hospitals Inc. (LPNT) and chairman of America Service Group Inc. (ASGR), died Tuesday afternoon in a single-engine airplane crash near the Rutherford County Municipal Airport.

Witnesses said that the plane, being used to practice take-offs and landings, struck the ground on a Smyrna golf course, according to a report on WSMV-Channel 4. Flight instructor Deborah Millwood also lost her life.

Mr. Mercy, 38, was a Nashville native who graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy in 1979, before attending college in Colorado.

In 1983, he joined the investor relations department of Hospital Corporation of America, where his late father had been an executive. Company chairman Dr. Tom Frist Jr., who had been close to Mr. Mercy's father, took a special interest in Mr. Mercy and in his career, friends said.

He became a manager in the financial operations of HCA. By 1994, he had risen to senior vice president for financial operations for Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. (HCA).

Mr. Mercy resigned from Columbia/HCA in 1996 to become chairman and chief executive of America Service Group in 1996. He relocated the headquarters of the prison health-care services company from Delaware to Nashville. In September 1998, he left the day-to-day operations of America Service Group to rejoin Columbia/HCA, though he remained board chairman of America Service Group.

Mr. Mercy was named chief executive of the Nashville-based hospital company's America Group in late 1998. In April 1999, that unit was spun-off as an independent, company LifePoint Hospitals Inc.

He served as chairman and chief executive of the 21-hospital chain since its formation.

James Fleetwood is president and chief operating officer of LifePoint and will continue to manage the company's day-to-day operations. The LifePoint board announced Wednesday morning that board member DeWitt Ezell has been appointed interim, non-executive chairman.

Mr. Mercy owned 513,788 shares of LifePoint stock, or 1.5% of shares outstanding, and 351,000 shares of America Service Group, or 9% of its shares outstanding. NashvillePost.com will provide addional information about the plane crash and funeral plans for Mr. Mercy when they are available.

He also was chairman of the Board of the Tennessee Special Olympics. He was married and the father of three.