Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush steps down as board considers a sale

Athenahealth building 2
Athenahealth's longtime CEO Jonathan Bush has stepped down and the company's board said it is exploring a possible sale or merger. (Athenahealth)

Jonathan Bush has stepped down from his role as CEO of Athenahealth after more than two decades, the company announced Wednesday morning.

Bush's resignation follows several reports of unprofessional behavior and comes as the company board it confirmed it is exploring "strategic alternatives," including a sale. 

“As part of this process, the Board will consider a sale, merger or other transaction involving the company as well as continuing as an independent company,” Athenahealth said in an announcement.

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The announcement comes on the heels of growing pressure from activist investor Elliott Management for the company to sell. In May, Elliott publicized a $160 per share offer and said it tried to engage the company in talks of a private takeover last November but was quickly rebuffed. 

RELATED: Athenahealth’s top shareholder sets up potential takeover battle for company

Other investors, including Janus Henderson Group, also voiced support for the company to explore a sale process over the last several weeks.

Bush’s departure marks the end of an era for Athenahealth, a company he founded and where he remained as CEO for 21 years. Over the last several weeks, news reports began surfacing about his past, including a physical altercation with his ex-wife 14 years ago and a settled sexual harassment claim from a former employee in 2009.

RELATED: Athenahealth adds new financial adviser as it considers Elliott Management’s offer

“I believe that working for something larger than yourself is the greatest thing a human can do,” Bush said in a statement. “A family, a cause, a company, a country—these things give shape and purpose to an otherwise mechanical and brief human existence. athenahealth is a near once in a life time example of such a thing. With that lens on, it's easy for me to see that the very things that made me useful to the company and cause in these past twenty-one years, are now exactly the things that are in the way. I cannot imagine a single organization more loaded with potential to transform healthcare.”

Jeff Immelt, named Athenahealth’s board chair in February, has been appointed executive chairman to support the company’s operations. Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Marc Levine will “assume greater day-to-day" operational responsibilities and oversight, the company said.