KENTWOOD — A Chicago private equity firm formed last year to invest in medical practices around the Midwest cuts it first deal with an investment in Grand Health Partners.
In a deal that follows a growing movement of private equity investing in health care, Chicago-based DuneGlass Capital acquired a majority stake in and recapitalized the Kentwood-based bariatric and general surgery practice, which provides medical and surgical weight loss.
The deal came together as Grand Health Partners was looking for a partner “who could help us ease the burden of running the business so my partners and I can focus more time and attention on delivering and expanding outstanding care to our patients,” said Dr. Randall Baker, one of the original founders of the practice.
“We have watched private equity and excellent private physician practices ally together in many subspecialties,” Baker said in a statement. “The partners at DuneGlass have proven they can help us run our practice more efficiently and can accelerate new opportunities for us to grow our practice. We believe there is an exciting alternative to being ‘hospital employed’ or only existing as a small individual private practice in an increasingly complex healthcare market. We welcome other practices to have a conversation with us to share more about our vision for growth.”
Terms of the deal were undisclosed. Physicians at Grand Health Partners remain “significant shareholders alongside of us,” said Dan Hosler, founder and managing partner at DuneGlass Capital.
In Grand Health Partners, the private equity firm made an investment where partner physicians behind the practice operate with an “entrepreneurial nature,” Hosler said.
DuneGlass Capital as well likes how Grand Health Partners offers a “comprehensive approach” to medical and surgical weight loss, with seven physicians and seven physician assistants, plus staff dieticians, exercise physiologists and behavioral specialists, Hosler said.
“We just love their approach. They’re business oriented, they’re growth oriented, and they’ve developed a really nice culture inside of their business, taking great care of their patients and taking great care of their employees,” Hosler said. “We thought that’s a great cultural fit to use to partner with many more practices throughout the Midwest.”
Hosler formed DuneGlass Capital a year ago after leaving Sterling Partners in the fall of 2018. At Sterling Partners, he was involved in the 2017 majority investment in the former Grand Rapids Ophthalmology PC, now known as Blue Sky Vision, and a series of follow-on acquisitions.
Hosler called Grand Rapids “a great city to be starting in” for DuneGlass Capital, which targets investments in mid-sized markets in the Midwest.
“We’re going to kind of use that as our forward operating base. We’ll look to continue to build the team up and around Grand Rapids,” he said.
The investment in Grand Health Partners stems from a referral by a physician in West Michigan that Hosler worked with at Blue Sky Vision, he said. He expects much of the firm’s deal flow to come through referrals from physicians in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.
DuneGlass Capital has five “active prospects” in its deal pipeline, two of which are with medical practices in Michigan, Hosler said.
“The types of companies we want to align ourselves at DuneGlass are the ones that first and foremost focus on outstanding patient outcomes,” Hosler said. “If we can’t believe, and we can’t independently verify, that that is the case, then it’s not as business for us to invest in.”
The firm will typically hold investments for four to six years, he said.
The deal comes as another private equity-backed health care firm also made its first deal in the Michigan market. Chicago-based Midwest Vision Partners, a portfolio company of San Francisco-based Alpine Investments, acquired Michigan Eye Institute P.C. in Flint, according to a statement.
Michigan Eye Institute is led by Dr. Gary Keoleian, Dr. Jeffrey Diskin and Dr. David Diskin, and has a network of 12 providers.
OFFERING AN EXIT
Part of the drive for DuneGlass Capital comes from the high debt many medical school graduates and younger physicians carry today. As older doctors look to sell their practices, they find that younger physicians are not financially positioned to acquire it, which opens opportunity for investors such as DuneGlass Capital, Hosler said.
The heavy student loan debt “has put a lot of fear into that older generation of doctors. ‘I thought my nest egg was going to be selling the practice to the next generation of doctors,’” he said.
“Part of the reason why private equity, especially middle-market private equity, has really poured capital into the physician practice and management space is we think there’s been a tectonic shift in succession planning that’s taking place in these practices,” Hosler said. “There are certainly doctors that are Millennials that want some ownership, so it’s not to say that everyone is opting out. But it’s getting less certain that you can simply just sell your practice at sort of for whatever price you want.”