Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

LHC completes acquisition of Almost Family

LHC service territory. | Courtesy of LHC

Louisiana-based home health provider LHC Group, which has completed its purchase of Louisville-based competitor Almost Family, told Insider that “all but a few hundred” of the local company’s 15,500 employees have joined the merged entity.

As of Dec. 29, Almost Family had about 17,000 employees, according to its most recent annual report.

LHC Group told Insider via email that the employees who did not join LHC “were in duplicative departments such as payroll, revenue cycle, and other back-office support areas that are fully resourced.

“Home Office personnel in Lafayette, as well as the executives and employees in the Personal Care Services and Health Care Innovations office in Louisville, will support the nearly 29,000 frontline clinical and support personnel who care for our patients on a daily basis, around the clock,” the company said.

The companies previously had said that LHC will remain based in Lafayette, while the PCS group will operate out of Louisville.

LHC also told Insider that the acquisition allows the companies’ combined expertise and resources allow them to better address industry challenges, such as the push toward value-based care, which pays health care providers based on health outcomes — not on the number of services they provide.

Value-based care, LHC said, “requires high levels of care coordination, cost tracking, and patient outcomes management across the continuum – (and therefore) requires significant resources and investments in personnel, technology, and clinical support.

“Size and scale certainly make that more attainable, but only if high quality standards, patient satisfaction rates, and measures such as reduced hospital readmissions are achieved. Both organizations have a long history and proven track record of achieving those measures.”

LHC leaders previously have said that they wanted to acquire Almost Family in part because it would allow them to expand into Florida, a critical market for an industry that relies heavily on reimbursements for Medicare patients.

Under terms of the deal, each share of Almost Family, which was founded in Louisville in 1976, was converted into 0.915 percent of a share of LHC. Nearly 99.9 percent of Almost Family shareholders voted in favor of the deal on March 29, the last day on which the company’s shares were traded. The transaction that day was valued at about $788 million.

LHC said the acquisition makes the company the country’s second-largest in-home health care provider that offers services in 36 states that cover “over 60 percent of the population aged 65 and over.”

LHC Group CEO Keith Myers said in a press release that the acquisition was “truly transformative … and can now begin to benefit patients, families and communities across the United States.”

Myers told Home Health Care News that the Almost Family locations would continue to operate under that brand as part of the company’s “house of brands” strategy.

Both companies had seen dramatic growth in the last few years. Almost Family generated revenue of $624 million in 2016, up from $70 million in 2005. At LHC, the number of employees has grown about 60 percent since 2013. Revenue between 2013 and 2016 increased 39 percent to $915 million.

LHC said it expects to continue to grow. The company said that Almost Family’s more than 330 locations “remain intact and fully operational.”

“Our plans are to grow our existing agencies to serve even more patients and families in the communities in which we operate,” the company said. “We also plan to expand our footprint into markets and communities that need the high quality in-home healthcare and exceptional service for which LHC Group is known.” —Boris Ladwig

NuLu hotel set to open just ahead of Kentucky Derby weekend

A rendering of the completed AC Hotel at the corner of East Market and Shelby streets | Courtesy of A+H Advertising

Days before the Kentucky Derby, Louisville’s newest hotel the AC Hotel Louisville Downtown in NuLu will open. The AC Hotel, located at 727 E. Market St., is accepting reservations starting on Wednesday, May 2.

A room for Derby weekend ranges from $599 to $799 a night.

The $38.6 million hotel is five stories and has 156 rooms and a 195-space parking garage. It also features the AC Lounge, a cocktail bar on the first floor of the hotel.

“We are elated to open our doors to guests and visitors,” Mike Reidy, the hotel’s general manager, said in a news release. “Our location, in the heart of NuLu, is a great opportunity to invest in this thriving district and help support nearby businesses as we are able to offer our guests a range of entertainment and cultural experiences right outside our doors and across all of Louisville.”

The AC Hotel was built using prefabricated modules that were then hoisted into place. Each module included two nearly complete guest rooms and an unfinished section of the hotel hallways.

It is owned by The 725 Partners: Ron and Mollie Turnier, who founded the food supplier Creation Gardens; Rob Webber, chief operating officer of Creation Gardens; the local developer Terry Chynoweth; and Steve Kersey, a partner of Kersey and Kersey architects. It is managed by the North Carolina-based Concord Hospitality Enterprises. —Caitlin Bowling

New downtown hotel now open

Speaking of hotels, the $20 million Homewood Suites Louisville Downtown at 635 W. Market St. is open for guests. However, if you are looking for a Derby accommodation, the hotel is already booked up, according to its website.

The hotel’s ribbon-cutting ceremony is 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10, but rooms are already available in the eight-story, 133-room hotel. The Homewood Suites Louisville Downtown features an indoor pool, a fitness center, an outdoor terrace with a fire pit, meeting space, a business center, a pantry for guests and a dining area.

Homewood Suites Louisville Downtown is managed by White Lodging and was developed by businessmen Tim Mulloy and Steve Poe. —Caitlin Bowling

City not seeking tax agreements with other vacation rental sites

Airbnb and the city of Louisville have reached a tax agreement. | Courtesy of Airbnb

On Sunday, the recently signed agreement between the city and Airbnb took effect, allowing the city to collect an 8.5 percent transient room tax on homes rented out through the popular vacation rental site.

The tax is traditionally charged to hotel bills, and now guests staying in an Airbnb listing in Louisville will have to pay the same tax. The tax agreement is expected to bring in more than $700,000 annually, with much of that being collected during the busy Derby season.

While Airbnb is the most dominant online vacation rental company, there are others in operation including HomeAway and VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner). The city does not have tax agreements with anyone other than Airbnb, and Stacey Yates, vice president of marketing communications for the Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau — which is funded by the transient room tax — told Insider that there aren’t any plans to get other online vacation rental companies to sign tax agreements.

“There has not been an active effort to pursue agreements with other shared economy outlets at this time. None have as much of a market share as Airbnb. Others like VRBO are more dominant in heavier vacation destinations,” Yates said in an email, adding, “The ordinance was written to accommodate any of the shared economy outlets if they become relevant in the marketplace.”

Erica Smith, a budget analyst for Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, said the city is focused on implementing its tax agreement with Airbnb but did not rule out trying to reach similar tax agreements with others in the future.

“We definitely want to pursue those opportunities,” Smith said. —Caitlin Bowling

Jim Beam teams up with Budweiser to create a barrel-aged beer

Beam & Bud, or is it Bud & Beam? | Courtesy of Budweiser

Jim Beam and Budweiser are joining forces starting this month with cross-promotions — the good ol’ shot-and-a-beer special — and will debut a new barrel-aged beer later this year.

The limited-edition Budweiser Reserve Copper Lager will be brewed with two-row barley and aged with used Jim Beam bourbon barrel staves. It will debut in September to help celebrate the 85th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.

“This partnership feels especially natural given our brands’ common values and the pivotal roles they’ve both played in American history,” said Rob Mason, vice president of marketing for Jim Beam, in a news release. “Our family distillers have produced ‘America’s Native Spirit’ since 1795 using traditions and techniques passed down through the generations. This is another exciting milestone in Jim Beam’s history.”

And the Bud folks chimed in with:

“We are very excited about this partnership not only because both brands share common history but also an obsession for quality and a decade’s long connection to America,” said Ricardo Marques, vice president of marketing for Budweiser, in the release.

Breweries have been aging beer in used bourbon barrels for a while now, so in that regard, this news isn’t completely earth-shattering. However, the collaboration of two industry behemoths is a big deal, and we’re actually looking forward to trying the Reserve Copper Lager. —Sara Havens

Papa John’s teases selling its garlic sauce in bulk

Louisville pizza chain Papa John’s International may start selling its vampire repellent (and potentially romance deterrent) in bulk, the company teased on Twitter.

A tweet, which read #NoJoke, was posted to the pizza chain’s Twitter account on April 1 and seemed to indicated that the company plans start selling large jugs of its garlic sauce.

Of course, April 1 is April Fools’ Day and is traditionally a day for companies to run outrageous advertising campaigns in an effort to garner attention, so Insider Louisville reached out to a spokesperson with the company to ask if — despite the hashtag — the tweet was simply an elaborate joke.

Insider did not receive a response, but on Wednesday, Papa John’s referenced supersized jugs of garlic sauce again.

We’ll have to wait to see if Papa John’s comes out saying #justkidding or if Papa John’s employees will soon start delivering giant jugs of garlic sauce to customers’ homes. —Caitlin Bowling

UofL Foundation adds campus ex officio members 

For the first time in recent memory, the University of Louisville Foundation will have campus representatives on its board of directors.

Student, faculty and staff constituency representatives will all be ex officio members of the board, student body president Vishnu Tirumala said. While the positions won’t receive a vote, they will have a seat at the table and will be able to inform the directors’ votes.

The foundation hopes the move will boost transparency, interim foundation executive director Keith Sherman wrote in a letter to Tirumala. Tirumala echoed this sentiment, calling the move a “great step towards transparency” on Twitter.

“Although much of ULF’s work is focused on financial management, this move allows for a formal way for the ULF to engage directly with the some of the constituents directly impacted by their decisions,” Tirumala told Insider.

The constituency representatives, typically the presidents of the student body, faculty senate and staff senate, are also voting members of the board of trustees. —Olivia Krauth

In Brief

Kathy Mills, owner of the Louisville technology company Strategic Communications, won Minority Owned Small Business of the Year from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Kentucky district.

After a whirlwind two weeks of key hires at the University of Louisville, interim provost Dale Billingsley announced that he will be leaving the position on June 1. Vice Provost for Graduate Affairs Beth Boehm will take over until incoming president Neeli Bendapudi names a permanent provost.

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