Pharos buys health care cost containment play

Investment firm puts former Gordian, Inspiris CEO Lehman in CEO seat

Private equity firm Pharos Capital Group has acquired a New York-based company that markets wellness programs and a debit card that companies use to reimburse employees for approved out-of-pocket health care spending.

In conjunction with its purchase of Employee Benefit Solutions, Pharos' leaders have brought on veteran health care executive Gregg Lehman to lead the company. He will soon replace EBS founder Paul Staubi, who is retaining a minority stake in the company and staying on its board of directors. Lehman, pictured at right, previously ran Gordian Health Solutions, in which Pharos invested early on, as well as care and management services venture Inspiris. He is currently running medical device manufacturer MGC Diagnostics and will step down from his positions there at the end of the month.

"Healthcare remains an important focus for Pharos, and we believe our experience with underserved markets and mid-sized businesses can help EBS take advantage of positive, ongoing trends," said Bob Crants, managing partner at Pharos.

Terms of Pharos' deal are not being disclosed. EBS has offices in White Plains, New York; San Francisco and Chicago and works with companies that combined have about 30,000 employees and 60,000 covered lives. EBS execs say they have a client retention rate of nearly 90 percent and say the Difference Card has provided its clients with an average annual net savings of almost 19 percent over six years.

"Our clients and employees will benefit from Pharos’ impressive history in healthcare, along with the experience of healthcare industry veteran Gregg Lehman," Staubi said. "I look forward to working with the Pharos team and Gregg as we take the company to the next level."

Pharos' investment in EBS is the second from its third fund. Early this year, the firm bought a behavioral health services company in Louisiana.