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Buffalo’s WillCare sold to national home health care provider

A Kentucky company has agreed to pay up to $53 million to acquire WillCare HealthCare, a Buffalo-based provider of home health care with 2,000 employees in New York, Connecticut and Ohio.

Almost Family, based in Louisville with operations in 15 states, will pay between $46 million and $53 million to buy the stock of WillCare in a transaction expected to close in the second half of this year, the companies announced Wednesday.

WillCare, which had $72 million in revenues last year, serves nearly 5,000 patients from 11 branches in Western New York and the Hudson Valley, three branches in Connecticut and one in northeast Ohio. Once the purchase of WillCare is complete, Almost Family will have more than 230 branches and revenues of nearly $600 million.

WillCare founder Todd Brason said company officials talked to a number of suitors before reaching a deal with Almost Family. The changing health care environment — notably the move toward integrated provider networks and coordinated home health care — made this a good time to sell, Brason said. And Almost Family is a good fit for WillCare because the companies provide a similar range of services from skilled nursing to personal care, he said.

“They look very much like WillCare,” said Brason, who serves as WillCare’s chairman.

Brason and his brother, David, the company’s chief financial officer, own one-third of WillCare after selling two-thirds of the company to Summer Street Capital in 2008. The Brason brothers and Eric Armenat, WillCare’s president and CEO, have agreed to stay on with the company through the transition, but they haven’t made any decision about their roles with the company once the sale is finalized, Todd Brason said.

The purchase of WillCare’s New York operations is subject to state Department of Health approval.

Almost Family will continue to use the WillCare brand after the purchase. Almost Family officials said the WillCare acquisition makes sense because it boosts revenue in the Kentucky company’s personal care segment, expands the company into New York state, complements its current operations in Ohio and Connecticut and offers annual savings of between $5 million and $7.5 million in synergies once the companies’ operations are joined together.

“This combination provides us with a major entry into New York, where $52 million of WillCare’s 2014 revenues were generated, and fills an important gap in our Northeast cluster,” William B. Yarmuth, chairman and CEO of Almost Family, said in a statement.

About 800 of WillCare’s 2,000 employees — primarily clinicians, therapists and field staff — work in the Buffalo area. Of those, about 40 are administrative employees in WillCare’s home office in Buffalo, and Almost Family will spend the next few months evaluating how those positions fit within the combined company, Todd Brason said.

email: swatson@buffnews.com