Owner selling Symbion for $792M

Local company’s CEO, COO have signed noncompetes with buyer based in Chicago, Tampa

Surgery center operator Symbion is being sold to a peer also backed by a private-equity firm for almost $800 million in the latest big deal featuring Nashville health care companies.

Surgery Center Holdings, which does business as Surgery Partners from corporate offices in Tampa and Chicago, will pay cash for Green Hills-based Symbion, which runs 44 surgery centers and six surgical hospitals around the country. Combined, the two companies will own about 100 centers in almost 30 states and have annual revenues of more than $800 million.

An investment group, led by New York-based Crestview Partners and including a number of Symbion executives, has owned the company since the summer of 2007, when it paid $637 million. Reuters reported last November that Crestview was putting Symbion on the market for up to $800 million.

Surgery Partners, which is backed by Miami private-equity firm HIG Capital, has secured the financing it needs to pull off the acquisition and expects to close its deal by the fourth quarter. If the agreement falls through, Surgery Partners has agreed to pay Symbion $39.5 million.

Symbion Chairman and CEO Richard Francis and President and COO Cliff Adlerz have signed noncompetition and nonsolicitation agreements with Surgery Partners that will become effective when the acquisition closes. It’s not clear what the near-term future holds for the remainder of Symbion’s leadership team — CFO Teresa Sparks and division presidents George Goodwin, Anthony Taparo and John Crysel — or other HQ workers. It’s also not clear what will happen to Symbion’s footprint in the Burton Hills IV office building, where the company's lease for 44,000 square feet will expire at the end of 2017.

Phone calls Friday to executives at both Symbion and Surgery Partners were not returned prior to publication.

Surgery Partners has been an aggressive acquirer since being bought by HIG four and a half years ago, when it ran just 11 surgery centers and a handful of specialty physician practices. Early this year, analysts at Moody’s Investors Service said they expected that “the company will continue to prioritize acquisitions in lieu of deleveraging.” The company, they noted, also had paid two debt-funded dividends totaling $205 million in 2013.

Of note is the fact that Surgery Partners has in recent years also built up some businesses ancillary to its core surgery centers. It markets anesthesia and physician practice services and last year launched a toxicology business. Those moves to build a broader service offering are similar to the thinking behind Nashville-based AmSurg’s recently announced $2.3 billion deal to buy Sheridan Healthcare.

Symbion’s sale news also adds momentum to the wave of big M&A deals of late. In addition to AmSurg, behavioral health care company Acadia Healthcare plans to pay almost $700 million for a British company, and Community Health Systems paid more than $7 billion for rival Health Management Associates. On top of that, a raft of smaller deals has involved Middle Tennessee senior living, health IT and home health companies.