Leave it to an insurance company to give Ventas Inc., one of the largest real estate investment trusts in America’s health care sector, a new leader of its law department.
Carey Roberts, who spent a little more than two years as chief legal officer at Assurant Inc., will replace the retiring T. Richard Riney as executive vice president, general counsel, and ethics and compliance officer for Ventas, the Louisville-based REIT announced Jan. 7.
A Ventus spokeswoman told Bloomberg Law that Roberts was unavailable to discuss her new role, which will see her report to fellow attorney Debra Cafaro, who serves as the REIT’s chairman and CEO.
An Assurant spokeswoman said that Roberts will leave “later in the first quarter to join Ventas, and we wish her well,” adding that the company is conducting a search for a permanent replacement.
Roberts joined Assurant in late 2017 from the Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc., where she spent three years as deputy general counsel, chief compliance officer, and corporate secretary. Roberts previously worked 17 years at Covington & Burling, where she made partner in 2005.
Replacing Roberts on an interim basis at the New York-based risk management products and services provider will be deputy general counsel Gregory DeChurch and senior vice president of regulatory and government affairs Jay Rosenblum, now both co-general counsel.
Assurant hired Rosenblum last summer from Venable, whose Washington office he joined in early 2019 as counsel in the law firm’s legislative and government affairs practice. Rosenblum previously held in-house legal and lobbying roles at insurance leaders Guardian Life Insurance Co. and The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., as well as Big Four accounting firms Ernst & Young and Grant Thornton.
DeChurch has spent the past 26 years at Assurant in a variety of in-house legal roles. He was promoted to deputy general counsel in January 2017 upon the retirement of another former Assurant legal chief, Bart Schwartz, who spent a decade as the company’s top lawyer and is now senior counsel in the corporate and financial services group at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in New York.
At Ventas, Roberts takes over from Riney, who announced in May 2019 that he would retire during the first quarter of this year, according to a securities filing. Riney joined Ventas as its first general counsel in 1998, a year before the REIT hired its current leader, Cafaro, who praised him for his service.
“Rick demonstrated unbounded integrity and loyalty as an inspirational leader of the company for more than two decades,” said a statement from Cafaro. “We are deeply grateful for Rick’s critical role in making Ventas into the large, diversified, and high-performing S&P 500 company it is today.”
Cafaro has been CEO of Ventas since 1999, a time when the REIT was close to financial collapse. Since then Cafaro, a former real estate lawyer and a co-founding attorney at Chicago-based law firm Barack Ferrazano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg, has transformed Ventas into a financial success. The Harvard Business Review named Cafaro one of the world’s best-performing CEOs in 2019. Bloomberg data shows that she currently owns Ventas stock valued at roughly $44 million.
Bloomberg data also reveals that Fisher & Phillips, Harris Beach, and Seyfarth Shaw have handled the bulk of Ventas’ external litigation work over the past three years. During that time Ventas has also been busy in the transactional space, tapping Kirkland & Ellis to advise on its $1.5 billion buy of Baltimore-based real estate investment and development firm Wexford Science & Technology LLC in 2016.
Kirkland also advised Ventas in 2015 when the REIT teamed up with real estate billionaire Sam Zell’s Equity Group Investments LLC to acquire the assets of private equity owned-Ardent Medical Services Inc. in a $1.75 billion deal. In 2014, Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz got the outside counsel call from Ventas to handle its $2.6 billion merger with American Realty Capital Healthcare Trust Inc.
Roberts recruitment by Ventas makes her the latest notable in-house hire by a leading national REIT, following Monmouth Real Estate Investment Corp.’s appointment of a new legal chief on Dec. 31.