CommonSpirit Health will become the latest health system to drop the dual CEO model when longtime CEO Kevin Lofton retires this summer.
When he steps down June 30, Lofton will have served 17 years as CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives, the predecessor organization that merged with Dignity Health on Feb. 1, 2019 to form Chicago-based CommonSpirit, a massive not-for-profit system with 142 hospitals.
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Lofton, 65, currently shares CEO duties with Lloyd Dean, who will become the organization’s sole CEO after Lofton retires. The two have distinct responsibilities within the CEO office, with Dean, the former CEO of Dignity, overseeing clinical, financial and human resources and Lofton in charge of advocacy, compliance, IT, international business, legal, philanthropy, system partnerships and governance.
“It has been an honor to share the creation of CommonSpirit Health with Kevin and there is no question that all of us have appreciated the gifts that he brought forward,” Dean said in a statement. “I will forever cherish the opportunity to have been a part of this journey with him.”
Under Lofton’s leadership, CHI grew from a 68-hospital, $6 billion enterprise to a $15.5 billion organization in 18 states at the time of the merger. While at the helm of the organization, he worked to increase equity in healthcare and reduce health disparities. He was the founding chair of the American Hospital Association’s Equity of Care Initiative, which was later joined by the Catholic Health Association, American Association of Medical Colleges and America’s Essential Hospitals.
Lofton received $6.6 million in total compensation in fiscal 2016, which ended June 30, 2017, according to the most recent tax form available.
Some health systems have dabbled in the co-CEO model following mergers, and experts have told Modern Healthcare it can be a potentially successful short-term solution, so long as duties between the two are well-defined and the set-up doesn’t last more than three years.
Advocate Aurora Health pared back its CEO office from two to one in 2019, slightly more than a year since the organization was formed through a merger, with Jim Skogsbergh emerging as sole CEO and Dr. Nick Turkal leaving the organization. The health system still maintains two headquarters, however: one in Milwaukee and another in Downers Grove, Ill.
Before joining CHI, Lofton served as CEO of Howard University Hospital and UAB Hospital, as well as chief operating officer of UF Health Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. He also served as the AHA’s board chairman in 2007, regent at large in the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) and as a member of the Executive Leadership Council. He has also been included in Modern Healthcare’s “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare” list 15 times, including as No. 54 in 2019.
Tessie Guillermo, CommonSpirit’s board chairwoman, called Lofton an “exceptional leader” in a statement.
“We have been lucky to be on this journey under the leadership and expertise of both Kevin and Lloyd as they worked side-by-side in the office of the CEO,” she said. “We are confident that under Lloyd’s leadership we will be well-positioned to transform how we deliver care across the 21 states we serve.”
Lofton became the CEO of CHI in 2003. In a news release, CommonSpirit said Lofton chose to announce his retirement just before the organization’s first anniversary on Feb. 1 because it has a “strong foundation, a clear mission and strategy, and a talented leadership team in place.”
Lofton, who serves on the boards of Gilead Sciences, Rite Aid Corp. and the GSU Foundation, earned a master’s of health administration degree from GSU Robinson College of Business in Atlanta.
CommonSpirit has been losing money since the merger, including a year-over-year operating loss of $227 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2020, which ended Sept. 30, 2019. Analysts have pressured the health system to explain why progress toward cost savings isn’t happening faster.
Tara Bannow writes for Crain’s sister publication Modern Healthcare.