Health and Science

Athenahealth founder and former CEO Jonathan Bush blasts activist investor, Elliott 

Key Points
  • Athenahealth founder and CEO Jonathan Bush likens having an activist investor take a stake in a company to working with a gun to one's head.
  • Elliott Management had taken a stake in Athenahealth and pushed for changes at the health technology company.
  • Bush stepped down from Athenahealth in June after allegations that he attacked his then-wife 13 years ago.
Watch CNBC's full interview with former Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush
Watch CNBC's full interview with former Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush

Jonathan Bush, founder and former CEO of Athenahealth, defended himself in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday and blasted Elliott Management, the activist investment firm that took a stake in his health information technology company and eventually bought it after Bush resigned.

"My experience is running a company with a gun to your head is no way to run a company. Better to just say, 'Pull the trigger,'" Bush said Wednesday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," describing what it was like to have an activist investor take a stake in his company.

Without explicitly saying Elliott was responsible, he raised suspicions about a reporter finding one accusation in thousands of pages of divorce court filings. The allegation was that Bush had attacked his then-wife 13 years ago.The accusation, which he said is "not an answerable accusation," arose this year and led to Bush's departure in June.

Paul Singer's Elliott took a stake in Athenahealth in May 2017, saying the company's stock was "significantly undervalued" and there were "numerous operational and strategic opportunities to maximize shareholder value."

Elliott and private equity firm Veritas Capital bought Athenahealth in November 2018 for about $5.7 billion. The companies then merged Athenahealth with a unit Veritas Capital acquired from GE Healthcare in April.

Elliott wasn't immediately available to comment. However, the firm has denied it was responsible for the accusations against Bush emerging this past summer.

In his appearance, he remained skeptical. "Thanks for watching, fellas," said Bush, a nephew of the late former President George H.W. Bush.