Jeb Bush, Marilyn Tavenner getting in on healthcare SPAC frenzy

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Former Florida governor Jeb Bush and former CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner are joining forces to lead a new healthcare blank check company.

Both will serve on the board of Jackson Acquisition, a so-called special purpose acquisition company that’s filing to go public through a financing mechanism that avoids the traditional initial public offering process in favor of raising the money in a faster, quieter format. The firm, based in Alpharetta, Ga., seeks to raise up to $300 million through its IPO.

Bush will lead the company as board chairman. Its executive team consists of CEO Richard Jackson and CFO Douglas Kline, who hold the same titles at Jackson Healthcare, a healthcare staffing firm that drew more than $1.4 billion in revenue in 2020.

SPACs raise money from investors through IPOs and must spend it within two years by buying other companies and taking them public. They gained popularity in 2020 amid the economic uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, but have taken off even more in 2021. Healthcare has been sizable focus area for SPACs because of all the digital disruption happening and the fact that it comprises almost 20% of U.S. gross domestic product, said Matt Wolf, director and senior healthcare analyst with RSM.

The 19 healthcare SPACs announced in 2020 raised almost $5.1 billion, according to data compiled by RSM. So far in 2021, 31 healthcare SPACs have raised about $8.7 billion. In 2019, by contrast, RSM found just two healthcare SPACs that raised $425 million.

“We are three months into the year and we are almost double the total money raised last year,” Wolf said.

In a federal securities filing, Jackson Acquisition said its management team and board members have developed a broad network of contacts and corporate relationships—especially in healthcare—that will serve them well as they decide where to invest. Jackson Acquisition plans to focus on healthcare services, healthcare technology or another part of the healthcare industry.

“Within this focus, we will seek to pursue opportunities with market-leading companies, including closely-held companies, institutionally-backed businesses and corporate spin-outs,” the company said. “We believe we will be able to provide significant value due to the ability of our management to drive growth, global scaling and operating improvements in companies, along with our flexibility in understanding and addressing complex business situations and structures.”

A representative for Jackson Acquisition could not be reached for comment. The company’s filing said it will seek targets for their industry attractiveness, strong management teams, growth potential and value proportions, among other criteria. The filing cautioned that the firm may consider a business outside of healthcare as well.

As Florida’s 43rd governor, Bush, a Republican, worked to curb Medicaid spending by moving members into managed-care networks run by private insurers. He’s currently chairman of Finback Investment Partners, a merchant bank based in Coral Gables, Florida, that has executed healthcare deals. He has also served on the board of investor-owned hospital chain Tenet Healthcare Corp.

Tavenner most recently spent three years at the helm of America’s Health Insurance Plans. She led CMS under President Barack Obama and played a high-profile role during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The CEO of Miami-based not-for-profit health system Jackson Health System, Carlos Migoya, will also serve as a board member, as well as former U.S. Senator David Perdue Jr., a Republican from Georgia who was the CEO of Dollar General.

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