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Patel to focus on philanthropy after sale of Freedom Health

By Justine Griffin
Dr. Kiran Patel, left, and his wife, Dr. Pallavi Patel, are putting up $200 million toward a new medical school in Clearwater run by Nova Southeastern University. Kiran Patel said Wednesday he will focus more on the couple's philanthropic efforts now that his managed health services company, Freedom Health Inc., has been acquired by Anthem Inc. [Photo courtesy of Nova Southeastern University]

Now that Kiran Patel the entrepreneur has sold his managed health care services company, he plans to get more in touch with his other side, Kiran Patel the benefactor.

"I want to focus on the other things that I have started, from hospitality to different funds and technology companies," Patel told the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday. "But more of my time will go to the philanthropic side."

The well-known doctor and businessman, whose large charitable gifts have touched several local organizations, has sold Freedom Health Inc. of Tampa to industry giant Anthem Inc. A press release issued late Tuesday by Anthem said it acquired Americaís 1st Choice and its Florida brands Freedom Health and Optimum.

"The last 10 years have been an amazing part of my life," Patel said in a letter to Freedom Health staff Tuesday. "The company experienced a 16-fold growth in the span of 10 years and our family of 100 people grew to 1,000. Notably, much of this growth occurred during one of the most challenging economic periods in recent history."

Patel said in an interview that he grew the company as much as he could, but he couldnít be bound any longer by the corporate rules that govern the health care industry.

"Itís time for me to let some other larger corporation that is more structured bring in the capital and expand to other states," he said. "Iím not the type of person who can work or report to somebody else. Iím very entrepreneurial. So the sale was the best option."

His philanthropic efforts so far include the hospitals heís built in India and Zambia, as well as the $200 million he and his wife donated to build a regional medical campus in Clearwater for the private Nova Southeastern University.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Kiran and Pallavi Patel commit $200 million for Clearwater medical school

The Patels also have donated millions to local charity and academic groups across Tampa Bay over the years. Their gifts include $26 million to the University of South Florida, $5 million for a conservatory at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and $3 million for a research institute at Florida Hospital Tampa.

The financial terms of the Anthem deal were not disclosed in the press release, but Patel stands to make millions. Most of his personal fortune came from the sale of another HMO, WellCare Health Plans, which he founded in 1985 in Tampa and sold in 2002 for a reported $200 million.

WellCare is still headquartered in Tampa and is now one of the top 500 public companies in the United States. It employes 7,400 people and recently saw sales of $14.24 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.