Jeffrey C. Barbakow
• Tenet's chain of seven Pennsylvania hospitals turned profitable
• Stock price jumped 44% through late December, while Standard & Poor's Health Care index fell 7.5%
PHOTO BY BRIAN SMITH
One of Jeffrey C. Barbakow's prized possessions is an altered photo of the Star Trek crew, in which he appears as Captain Kirk. Barbakow, who's been chief executive of Tenet Healthcare Corp. (THC ) for eight years, received the photo in October on a visit to the Tenet-owned Hollywood Medical Center in Hollywood, Fla. The gift was given in good fun, but the image of the 57-year-old former investment banker as a valiant captain isn't that far off. Since Barbakow took the helm in 1993, Tenet has blossomed from a struggling chain of 35 hospitals into the nation's second-largest operator, with 116 hospitals in 17 states. It posted revenues of $12 billion in its fiscal year ended in May and profits of $643 million--up 113% from 2000.
Barbakow's prescription for success is to acquire hospitals only in markets where Tenet can be one of the largest players. Size gives it the power to continually wrestle higher reimbursement rates from tightfisted insurers. The soft-spoken Barbakow demands the utmost in efficiency. He even adjusts hospital chiefs' pay based on their ability to collect bills on time. In the past year, Tenet's days outstanding on accounts receivable dropped by 15 days, to 65.
Barbakow once thought of selling Tenet, but now believes the opportunities in health care are too good to abandon. "More than 83 million baby boomers are about to come through the health-care system," he says. The man hailed by employees as the captain of the Starship Enterprise is working hard to rocket Tenet to a healthy future.