Paul Ramsay, Billionaire Private-Hospital Operator, Dies

Paul Ramsay, the billionaire health-care provider who built his business from a single psychiatric institution in Australia into a network of private hospitals in five countries, has died. He was 78.

Ramsay died overnight in his home town of Bowral in New South Wales state after recently suffering a heart attack, Ramsay Health Care Ltd. said in a statement.

Founding Ramsay Health Care in Sydney in 1964, Ramsay oversaw the growth of his company into an operator of more than 150 health-care facilities in Australia, the U.K., France, Indonesia and Malaysia. As chairman and a major shareholder, he helped former Chief Executive Officer Pat Grier take advantage of the Australian government’s shift in focus to private health care in the 1990s, boosting the stock price almost 25-fold since Ramsay Health Care’s initial public offering in 1997.

With a 36.2 percent company holding, Ramsay had a net worth of $3.2 billion, ranking him as the ninth-wealthiest Australian, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as of April 24. The “vast majority of his controlling shareholding” will be transferred to the Paul Ramsay Foundation to be of “enduring benefit to the Australian community,” according to a separate statement.

The largest operator of private hospitals in Australia, Ramsay Health Care employs more than 30,000 people globally and treats more than 1.4 million patients each year, according to its website. Through acquisitions, the company has about 40 treatment centers in both the U.K. and France, making it one of the largest private providers in both countries. Its foray into Asia began with purchases of Indonesian hospitals in 2005.

Political Donor

The company has made large donations to Australia’s Liberal Party, whose government under Prime Minister John Howard offered tax incentives for citizens to obtain private health insurance when he was in power from 1996 to 2007. To relieve the burden on the Medicare-funded public system, both Liberal and Labor governments have since encouraged a greater role for private health-care providers.

Ramsay donated AU$605,000 ($560,000) in the 2011-2012 fiscal year and was the Liberal Party’s largest donor at the time, according to an April 2014 article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Paul Joseph Ramsay was born in 1936 in Sydney, the son of a property surveyor. He grew up in the Southern Highlands town of Burradoo and attended St. Ignatius College, Riverview, a Jesuit-run school in Sydney’s northern suburbs, before studying law at Sydney University, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Company Expansion

At age 28, Ramsay founded his company, purchasing a Sydney guest house that he turned into a psychiatric facility before branching into surgical hospitals in 1978, according to Ramsay Health Care. Almost 20 years later, it opened North Shore Private Hospital, a Sydney-based treatment center.

Ramsay Health Care began its drive into Europe in 2007 when it acquired Capio, the U.K.’s fourth-largest operator of private hospitals. It expanded into France three years later with the purchase of a 57 percent stake in Group Proclif SAS, now known as Ramsay Sante.

In February 2014, Ramsay sold his 30 percent stake in Prime TV, a regional television company, for almost $100 million. He also announced his departure as Prime TV’s chairman, a position he had held on an executive or nonexecutive basis since 2004.

Ramsay, who lived in the luxurious Quay West apartments on Sydney Harbor, was unmarried and had no children. He is survived by his twin sister Anne and brother Peter.