About one year after Atria Senior Living acquired the management services business of independent living giant Holiday Retirement, Lilly Donohue has stepped down as Holiday CEO and exited the company.
Holiday Retirement also has been rebranded as Holiday by Atria, with a new website recently unveiled.
“The relationship between Lilly and Atria and the new brand, Holiday by Atria, remains very strong — she worked really hard, side-by-side with us, to keep the best parts of Holiday and … make things better and smarter,” Atria CEO John Moore told Senior Housing News.
Last fall, Atria named Mike Mejia as COO of the Holiday business. He is leading the operations of Holiday by Atria alongside several long-tenured executives.
Atria also is about to embark on a first wave of renovations across the Holiday by Atria portfolio.
“We’re setting up Holiday by Atria to take on the challenge of senior housing options at an approachable price point; we think there’s a big need and big opportunity, and we think we’re set up to meet it,” Moore told SHN.
And Donohue struck an upbeat tone in a letter to associates announcing her departure.
“I have no doubt Holiday’s best days are yet to come,” she wrote. “John knows our business inside and out and is able to attract much needed new capital into our communities with a focus on quality and excellence. And he is taking over a team that is one of the strongest and most engaged in our senior living industry — you all.”
Holiday by Atria’s leadership structure
When Atria and Holiday combined, Donohue stayed on board and retained her title as CEO of Holiday.
Since that time, the integration of Holiday and Atria has been a “pretty steady, thoughtful process,” and Donohue was closely involved in setting up the leadership structure that is now in place, Moore said.
After a 17-year career in retail, Mejia joined Atria as an executive director in 1998. He went on to manage Atria communities across several regions and since 2012 has led the company’s west division as SVP of Operations.
Mejia’s portfolios have “consistently led Atria in performance,” according to information provided to SHN by the operator.
Other Holiday by Atria leaders include SVPs who have significant tenure with Atria:
- Javiera Garcia (10 years)
- Lee Young (12 years)
- Andrew Levin (14 years)
Also on the team is Kristy Grange, who has been president of Atria Retirement Canada for 8 years.
As of the start of 2022, the support centers for Atria and Holiday had been fully combined in Atria’s long-time headquarters city of Louisville.
Still moving toward ‘do-it-yourself’ senior living
Holiday has long offered an affordable independent living option; at the time of the combination with Atria in June 2021, Holiday’s rental rates averaged about $2,775, analysts noted.
So, acquiring the Holiday management business positioned Atria to be a big player in meeting the middle-market demand that is expected to soar in the coming years as the baby boomer generation ages into senior living.
But in order to meet the expectations of this coming generation, the Holiday properties and operating model require modernization. Prior to the Atria deal, Donohue already had been making changes, including restructuring leases, pursuing workforce initiatives, and shifting away from Holiday’s long-standing model of having live-in managers.
Atria brought additional capabilities to the table, including a homegrown technology backbone. Furthermore, real estate investment trust Welltower (NYSE: WELL) acquired the real estate of 86 Holiday communities, with a plan to deploy $1.5 to $2 million in CapEx per community.
A plan is now in place to refresh Holiday by Atria communities in waves, with the first projects to start in the third quarter, Moore said.
And his vision for the Holiday by Atria portfolio has remained largely consistent since the acquisition. That vision involves Holiday becoming a paragon of “do-it-yourself” senior living, he said at SHN’s BUILD event last November and in an interview this week.
To explain the concept, he drew on his own experiences. His mother is currently living on a fixed monthly income and maintaining her independence with the help of family and friends. Should she enter a senior living community, Moore believes she would prefer to maintain as much financial and lifestyle self-sufficiency as possible.
“I look at a room at Holiday as a better platform for managing that kind of life,” he said, making a contrast with Atria’s ultra-luxury Coterie brand, which offers an “absolute, all-inclusive” option.
Moore hinted at plans to facilitate health care access for residents of Holiday by Atria, to further enable independence and reduce the need for moves to costlier assisted living communities. Services supported by Medicare Advantage plans could be part of the equation, he suggested at BUILD.
“What we want is to be in the business of managing senior housing real estate, but make it so residents can build their own experience,” Moore said this week.
Even as Atria moves forward with these efforts, Moore emphasizes that Holiday communities are well-built and smartly designed, and that there are considerable strengths in the existing operating model.
So, the rebrand has been done with a light touch, meant to connote both forward momentum and ties to the past.
“It’s a ‘new old brand,’” Moore said. “There is such great brand equity in the Holiday name, and we wanted to celebrate that.”
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