L&M stands alone with bid for Westerly Hospital

Lawrence & Memorial Hospital's $69 million offer to purchase The Westerly Hospital is on track to be approved at an Aug. 28 sales hearing, the special master for The Westerly Hospital's receivership case said Wednesday.

"I would anticipate it will be approved," Attorney Mark Russo said.

Russo said no bids were received to compete with the "stalking horse" bid submitted by L&M this spring. A stalking horse bid is accepted to serve as a benchmark against which all rival bids are measured.

Two other hospital companies told Russo that they wanted to be kept abreast of proceedings in case L&M withdraws its bid, he said. A third hospital company said it may submit an "alternate transaction" that might not compete economically with L&M's but might be considered based on other factors if L&M withdraws.

"This signifies that L&M put in a very good bid, and I hope they plow forward," Russo said.

Among parties that had expressed interest in The Westerly Hospital are South County Hospital in Wakefield, R.I., and Westerly Hospital Holdco, a for-profit hospital management company affiliated with a New Jersey firm.

If the bid is approved, L&M must seek approval from hospital regulators in both Connecticut and Rhode Island for the acquisition. The closing would take place in January, Russo said.

L&M spokesman Mike O'Farrell said L&M is completing its due diligence work toward finalizing its bid.

"Our focus has been on conducting a thorough review of all available information as it pertains to a potential acquisition," he said. "Our interest in Westerly is strong, and we believe a partnership with L&M is the best result for the community. We will continue to work with the special master in this process, with the next step focusing on the sales hearing scheduled for later this month."

j.benson@theday.com

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