SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Sanford Health is picking up a new executive from UnityPoint Health, months after a failed merger with the Iowa-based health system.

Kent Lehr will join the Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health as chief of business development and strategic partnerships, the health system announced Tuesday, Aug. 11. Lehr comes to Sanford from UnityPoint Health, where he led organizational strategy and business development efforts.

A planned $11 billion merger between Sanford and Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint , which would have created one of the largest health care systems in the country, collapsed in November.

Neither side was specific about what torpedoed the merger. UnityPoint issued a statement at the time saying it was choosing not to continue with merger plans. Kelby Krabbenhoft, Sanford's president and CEO, said he was disappointed UnityPoint "failed to embrace the vision" of the combined health systems.

Sanford Health employs about 48,600 and has 480 clinics and 44 medical centers, including major facilities in Sioux Falls, Fargo and Bemidji, Minnesota. UnityPoint employs about 32,000 with 400 clinics and 21 hospitals in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

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According to the Sanford news release, while at UnityPoint, Lehr:

  • Developed a major strategic roadmap for the organization
  • Launched UPH Ventures as part of their innovation strategy
  • Played a key role in designing a joint venture with HealthPartners of Bloomington, Minnesota, which launched a new insurance company in Iowa and Illinois in 2015
  • Led in UnityPoint joining CivicaRx, an organization to which Sanford also belongs, which lowers prescription drug costs for patients.

Lehr was named on Becker’s Hospital Review’s rising stars in health care under the age of 40 list in 2017.

“I am energized to join the team at Sanford,” said Lehr, in a Sanford Health news release. “Innovation and growth strategies are vital in today’s evolving health-care landscape. I look forward to bringing my talents to the team and helping lead Sanford to continued success.”

Lehr will replace Kim Patrick, who has retired as Sanford's chief business development officer. Patrick was one of four high-profile retirements recently announced at Sanford. The other outgoing executives included Mike Begeman, vice president of community relations; Dr. Dan Blue, president of Sanford World Clinic; and JoAnn Kunkel, chief financial officer.

“Kent is a great talent who will lead our enterprise strategy to advance new growth initiatives, partnerships and commercialization efforts to drive performance and support our important mission,” said Krabbenhoft.