Senior community changes hands

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010
— The brokers’ calls became routine.

Interested in buying? No.

Interested in selling? No.

After all, Tim and Marcy Weber had just closed the books on 2009 and the most successful three-year period in the history of Huntington Place, a senior housing community on Janesville’s northeast side.

But a call from one broker in January cracked the wall the Webers had been building around their Huntington business.

“He was a likeable guy, very knowledgeable and he had some interesting things to say,” Tim Weber said. “We decided it would be foolish not to listen, even if it was nothing more than just validating where we thought we were with the business.”

The Webers agreed to a meeting, which set off a whirlwind of events that culminated in Saturday’s sale of Huntington Place to Five Star Quality Care, a publicly-traded senior living and health care services company based in Newton, Mass.

The sale involves Huntington’s 110 assisted living, advanced care and independent apartments. The Webers retained the condominium portion of the business.

Five Star has more than 200 senior living communities with 22,905 living units in 30 states. With 22,000 employees, the company posted sales of $1.1 billion in 2009.

On its face, the sale to such a large, distant company seems to contradict the reasons the Webers launched Huntington in 1999.

Through relatives, the Webers had first-hand experience with nursing homes. But they saw an opportunity to change the way their family and friends lived. As owners of Webco, a construction and land development company, they envisioned a place where seniors could make a lifestyle transition without giving up independence and dignity.

“We just thought we could do something better,” Tim Weber said.

The couple spent three years acquiring 60 acres of land and several more years on planning and zoning before Huntington opened in 1999.

Through several expansions, the Webers built a well-respected senior community in their own community.

“It was always our objective just to have this campus in Janesville,” he said. “We were never interested in expanding to other communities.”

In Five Star, the Webers saw many similarities to Huntington, albeit on a much larger scale.

The Webers extensively researched Five Star, which has 12 other facilities in Wisconsin.

“We really liked what we found,” Tim Weber said.

The treatment of Huntington’s residents and staff were paramount in the Webers’ decision. With about 85 employees, Huntington was about 40 percent of the way to what the couple envisioned as a complete campus.

“At full capacity, we would have 175 to 200 employees, and it really came down to the fact that Five Star can take Huntington to places we might not have been able to go,” Tim Weber said.

“They’ve hired all of our employees, have an extremely attractive benefit package and support network, great systems and are interested in pursuing the memory care expansion we planned.”

Meetings with residents, staff and families to outline the sale were emotional.

“Sometimes, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” Tim Weber said.

But all seemed to agree that the sale would be best for everyone, he said.

“The fact that this company wanted to invest in Janesville is pretty neat for the residents, the staff and the community,” Tim Weber said. “Still, it was a very difficult decision for us.”

Marcy Weber likened it to sending kids off to college.

“You have to let them go to let them grow,” she said. “We’re at a point in our lives where it just made sense. It’s been a very rewarding experience for us.”

The Webers are local people who built a successful local business. While they’ll continue to focus on their construction business, Huntington Place will never be out of their thoughts.

“In keeping the condos, we will be a good neighbor, and we’d love to be part of building their expansion,” Tim Weber said. “But even though we’re no longer a part of Huntington Place, what goes on there will always be a reflection of us, and Five Star is very much aware of that.”

Last updated: 2:48 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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