SEIU Raps Carlyle Reassurance

The Carlyle Group today responded to criticism of its proposed buyout of nursing home operator Manor Care, by sending a “Patient’s First” pledge to state regulators. Just hours later, however, Carlyle’s main antagonist — the Service Employees International Union — dismissed the pledge as nothing more than a “PR tactic.”

We might be nearing the point where David Rubenstein and Andy Stern square off in a winner-take-all steel cage match… I officially offer to referee, or to coax Mills Lane out of retirement.

The pledge was issued jointly by Manor Care COO Stephen Guillard and Carlyle managing director Karen Bechtel. In it, Bechtel said: “Meeting the care needs of Manor Care’s patients and residents is our top priority. Manor Care is poised to become an even stronger health care provider under Carlyle’s ownership. We pledge to build upon Manor Care’s reputation for quality by providing the resources to strengthen Manor Care’s capabilities in serving its patients and residents.”

That sounds all warm and fuzzy, but SEIU punted it right over the bridge.

Gerry Hudson, the union’s executive vice president for healthcare, responded with this: “Most people will be able to see this for what it is — a P.R. tactic designed to help Carlyle get their deal done. Instead of making a public pledge to nursing home residents, family members, or caregivers, Carlyle directed its actions at state regulators — the only people standing between them and the completion of this multi-billion dollar takeover.”

I’m all for government oversight of a deal in which vulnerable seniors could be at risk, but SEIU’s objection to Carlyle’s rhetoric is kind of silly. 

The union made a big ruckus in order to get the attention of regulators, and it worked. So Carlyle responds by also targeting the same regulators. Doesn’t that make sense? Sure it would have been nice for Carlyle also to send a similar pledge to all Manor Care residents — but SEIU knows well that this issue won’t be decided over mashed peas and canasta…

Messers Rubenstein and Stern: You have your invite. I’ll assemble the cage.