Is Brookdale for sale?

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The country's largest owner and operator of senior living communities is in the early stages of negotiations with Blackstone Group and others to sell all or part of the company, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing “people familiar with the matter.”

The discussions may not result in a deal, however, the sources said.

“As a matter of policy, Brookdale does not comment on market rumors or speculation,” a company spokeswoman told McKnight's Senior Living.

Brookdale and Blackstone Real Estate Partners VIII L.P. on Nov. 1 announced that through a joint venture they would be paying $1.125 billion to buy the leases of 64 underperforming communities that Brookdale was leasing from HCP. Brookdale would manage the properties, the companies said.

“At the closing of this transaction, we will invest approximately $170 million of cash to acquire a 15% equity interest in the Blackstone joint venture, to terminate the underwater leases and to fund our share of closing cost and working capital,” Brookdale President and CEO Andy Smith said that day in a third-quarter earnings call.

Reached Tuesday, Brookdale declined to comment on the status of the transaction.

Brookdale's owned assets could be worth more than $7 billion, registered investment manager Land and Buildings founder and Chief Investment Officer Jonathan Litt, a Brookdale shareholder, said in a Dec. 20 letter to the company. In the letter, Litt called for the company to sell the real estate it owns, distribute the proceeds to shareholders and convert existing leases to management contracts.

At the time of his letter, Brookdale's share price was $12.72. At the close of the market on Tuesday, it was $14.80.

Litt's letter wasn't the first time an investor called on Brookdale to make major changes following its 2014 merger with Emeritus Senior Living. In 2015, Sandell Asset Management demanded that the company separate its property portfolio into a real estate investment trust and distribute it to shareholders by way of a tax-free spinoff. Sandell later sold its stake in the company.

As of Sept. 30, Brookdale had approximately 1,077 communities in 47 states and the ability to serve approximately 105,000 residents, according to the company. It topped the American Seniors Housing Association ASHA 50 lists of largest owners and largest operators of seniors housing in 2016.

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