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Willowood Buys Nursing Homes With MassDevelopment Bond

February 9, 2011 : North Adams Transcript, by Jennifer Huberdeau

PITTSFIELD – Willowood Extended Care Services, a division of Berkshire Healthcare, has acquired three of the nursing homes it has managed for over a decade with the help of a $30 million tax-exempt bond from MassDevelopment.

The group has added North Adams Commons, Williamstown Commons and Fairview Commons in Great Barrington to the list of skilled nursing facilities it owns. Berkshire Healthcare, an affiliate of Berkshire Health Systems, has 14 nursing facilities in the state, along with two in Ohio and another in Pennsylvania.

“The timing just made sense from an operational standpoint,” Lisa Gaudet, spokeswoman for Berkshire Healthcare, said Tuesday. “Through MassDevelopment, we were able to work with local lenders to secure this funding as a way for us to purchase the facilities as a not-for-profit.”

The purchase, which was finalized on Dec. 29, was made from Willowood Inc., a holding company formed by former nursing home magnate Arthur J. Ivey of Great Barrington. The holding company has been overseen by Ivey's estate since his death in May 2007.

The $30 million bond was purchased by TD Bank, with Berkshire Bank buying a portion of it.

According to Kelsey Abbruzzese, a spokeswoman for MassDevelopment, by helping to facilitate the federally tax-exempt status, the quasi-public agency has ensured the cost savings is passed on to Berkshire Healthcare in the form of lower interest rates from its bond holders.

“This financing structure advances our strategic interests in Berkshire County and will enable us to continue to invest in effective and necessary post-acute and long-term care programs and services for the residents of this community,” William C. Jones, executive vice president of Berkshire Healthcare, said Tuesday in a news release. “We are grateful to MassDevelopment, TD Bank and all of the professionals engaged in this financing project for the support and confidence they have in us.”

Berkshire Healthcare provides a full spectrum of care options, including long- and short-term rehabilitation and other specialized nursing care options, a continuing care retirement community, a hospice agency and adult day health programs.

© Copyright 2011 North Adams Transcript.