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Modern Healthcare

Community Health Systems After Wayne Smith

Wayne Smith is a deal-maker above all else. Those who've followed Smith through his more than two decades as CEO of for-profit hospital chain Community Health Systems describe him as competitive yet disciplined.

Smith, who will step down from the CEO post at year-end, will have spent the final leg of his tenure working to sell underperforming hospitals in an effort to pay down debt accumulated through buying them.

Smith's colleagues have looked out for him along the way. His board, which he chairs, has been loyal even in the face of calls for his ouster. He's staying on as executive chairman, but when he exits, he'll cash in on a pension worth almost $50 million as of 2019 under the company's supplemental executive retirement plan, thanks in part to a 2004 deal that let him temporarily accrue two years' worth of benefits for every year of service.

“It's difficult to compare SERP payouts from one executive to another, as there are other ways companies can provide retirement pay,” said Bill Dixon, a managing director with Pearl Meyer. CEOs can have four or five different retirement vehicles. Further, some companies choose to weight compensation more toward cash or company stock instead of retirement benefits, Dixon said.

"All those components matter in terms of comparisons," Dixon said. "There are choices there around how you mix your compensation."

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