Elliott Management reportedly the lead bidder for Athenahealth as UnitedHealth, Cerner drop out

Two significant players have reportedly dropped out of the bidding war for Athenahealth, potentially driving the company into the arms of the activist investor that started the whole process.

UnitedHealth and Cerner have both pulled out of the bidding process for the EHR company, sources told the New York Post last week. Both companies were among the healthcare players rumored to be interested in Athenahealth, which began formally considering offers in July.

A UnitedHealth spokesperson declined to comment. A Cerner spokesperson said the company has "nothing to share about this matter."

That puts the duo of Elliott Management and Bain Capital in the driver’s seat to buy the company, the Post reported. After urging Athenahealth to go private late last year, Elliott Management launched a public campaign in May when it offered $7 billion in cash to take over the health IT company.

Bain Capital owns the health IT company Waystar, which could benefit from the acquisition.

RELATED: Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush steps down as board considers a sale

The company’s leadership initially resisted the takeover, but CEO and founder Jonathan Bush stepped down weeks later following a steady stream of negative media coverage.

The company, now led by former IBM CEO Jeff Immelt, has since said it is weighing its options, including any offers to buy the company. But a recent SEC filing hints the company may be close to a sale. Last week, Athenahealth agreed to pay Bush $4.8 million if the company is sold.

The former CEO is also in line to make an extra $2 million from the company if he adheres to nondisparagement and noncompete clauses in the agreement.

Elliott had previously offered a bid of $160 per share. Athenahealth was trading around $145 per share on Monday.