Welltower (NYSE: WELL) has named a veteran of the multifamily world to a strategic advisor role related to its plan to self-manage independent living units and announced a new partnership and senior living brand with an operating partner.
The Toledo, Ohio-based real estate investment trust (REIT) announced on Wednesday the appointment of Jerry Davis, a longtime multifamily real estate executive, as strategic advisor. The move coincides with new flexibility Welltower received from the IRS in November to self-manage IL assets.
Davis’ hiring comes as the company makes significant investments to develop an “integrated operating platform,” according to its February supplemental report.
The company also announced a new programmatic partnership with senior living operator Retirement Unlimited Inc. (RUI), and the launch of a new brand called Elance as part of a larger effort that is expected to span more than 20 communities on the East Coast.
A representative from Welltower did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company is slated to hold a fourth-quarter earnings call tomorrow, Feb. 16.
Davis joins Welltower after spending three decades with UDR, a multifamily REIT with a portfolio of 60,000 apartment homes. While there, he led various units from property operations to portfolio optimization tactics before retiring in 2021. Davis also worked as senior advisor to RET, a venture capital firm focused on technology for multifamily, and single-family properties.
In his new advisor role, he will work with Welltower COO John Burkart to impart wisdom learned in his multifamily experience and apply it within senior living through the buildout of Welltower’s new operating platform.
The recent IRS ruling grants Welltower more latitude to self-manage its approximately 45,000 IL units in the U.S. and Canada. Specifically, the flexibility says that certain Welltower IL communities are not “health care” facilities and thus are not required to be leased to a third party or taxable subsidiary as otherwise required under the REIT Investment Diversification and Empowerment Act (RIDEA).
In joining Welltower, Davis will initially focus on installing technology solutions across its portfolio to bring both systems and process process improvements, according to the company’s supplemental issued Wednesday.
Burkhart said in a news release regarding Davis’ hiring that Welltower’s operating model is expected to “fundamentally change the growth profile” of the senior living industry.
“As our ongoing investments into Welltower’s data analytics and asset management capabilities help drive an acceleration of our growth, we expect more talented individuals to recognize the opportunity ahead of us to transform the operations of one of the fastest growing sectors within the commercial real estate sector,” Burkart said in a press release on the appointment.
Investments in the new operating model are well underway for the company, including bolstering executive staff and implementing business intelligence and data analytics.
Welltower management noted that Burkart has so far been able to leverage his multifamily experience to identify new opportunities, resulting in “a significant improvement in both revenue and expense trends” across the company’s senior housing operating (SHO) platform.
Specifically, the company was able to achieve that through a mix of reducing the use of agency labor, refining pricing strategies for operators and enhancing resident care revenue.
The new Welltower operating platform will be “fully-integrated” with its data analytics platform, and Welltower is launching pilot programs with operators starting this quarter..
With RUI, Welltower has announced a new programmatic partnership and the launch of a new luxury-focused brand called Elance.
The partnership between Welltower and RUI began last November, when Roanoke, Virginia-based RUI took over management of a Welltower community, the Fountains at Washington House in Alexandria, Virginia; which is now known as Elance at Alexandria.
As part of the rebranding, Elance at Alexandria is set to see renovations that include a new rooftop area, new dining, a fitness center and updates to the community’s salon and spa.
“This is all part of RUI’s diverse enrichment programs, social experiences, and levels of care that, together, take the senior living experience to the next level in a comfortable and elegant setting,” said Doris-Ellie Sullivan.
The community marks the first installment of the partners’ new luxury senior living brand. A “significant expansion” in the relationship between RUI and Welltower is “expected in the coming months and years” through a pipeline of acquisition, transition and development opportunities, Welltower management noted in a press release. The partnership could grow to over 20 communities spanning multiple states throughout the East Coast in the coming months and years.
“[RUI CEO William Fralin], Doris-Ellie and their entire team have distinguished themselves as best-in-class managers, with their currently managed properties outperforming their underlying markets and the industry with mid 90% occupancy, strong operating margins and differentiated programming such as RUI University,” Welltower CEO Shankh Mitra said of the new partnership. “We are excited to partner with RUI on Elance at Alexandria, which is the first of many opportunities in the programmatic partnership’s near-term pipeline.”