Week in Review, March 28-April 1: Final Four, Big Healthcare Deal, Veto Override
NEW ORLEANS — The city’s hospitality industry is revving up to host the 2022 NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball tournament this weekend. The Kansas Jayhawks will play Villanova’s Wildcats on Saturday evening, followed later that night by a matchup between the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke University’s Blue Devils. The winners will meet in a championship game on Monday. The games take place at the Caesars Superdome. Ticket prices are the highest in tournament history, and local hotels, restaurants and attractions are looking forward to the surge in visitors.
Here, from staff and wire reports, are the week’s other top business stories:
UnitedHealth Group will spend $5.4 billion to acquire LHC Group and delve deeper into home health, an area of care expected to grow as baby boomers age. The health care giant said Tuesday that it will pay $170 in cash for each share of LHC’s stock in a deal expected to close later this year. UnitedHealth, which runs the nation’s largest health insurer, will add LHC Group Inc. to its Optum Health business, which operates primary care clinics and surgery centers around the country.
Both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature voted Wednesday mainly along party lines to override Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a congressional redistricting bill, marking the first time in nearly three decades that lawmakers refused to accept a governor’s refusal of a bill they had passed. The map was passed during a special legislative session called to redraw government district lines to account for population shifts reflected in the 2020 census. The new map is outlined in two identical bills sent to Edwards. The governor vetoed both, saying lawmakers should have included a second majority-Black district among the six districts they approved. Wednesday’s House vote was 72-31 — more than the two-thirds needed — to turn House Bill 1 into law over Edwards’ objections, The Advocate reported. State senators voted 27-11 in favor of the bill. … Civil rights groups and voting activists filed lawsuits challenging Louisiana’s new congressional redistricting map hours after lawmakers voted to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of the maps. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Louisiana and the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP filed a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court on behalf of the Louisiana NAACP, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and individual voters, claiming the map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The 176-room Canopy by Hilton New Orleans Downtown is now open at 1100 Tulane Avenue in the Central Business District. In development since 2015, the 14-story hotel inhabits the former Oil and Gas Building, built in 1959 and designed by August Perez & Associates and Edward B. Silverstein & Associates. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 after it had been vacant for more than a decade.
Public broadcasting station WYES, which reaches television viewers in southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is celebrating 65 years of service. The station first signed on the air on April 1, 1957. Throughout 2022, WYES will highlight its 65th anniversary on air and online with a special promotional campaign. WYES invites viewers to share their memories on social media with the hashtag #wyes65. Beginning at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, WYES will present nine hours of its most popular locally produced documentaries, some of which have not been aired in decades. In 1957, WYES was founded by community leaders who believed in the power of the new medium as an educational tool. The letters Y, E and S in the station’s name stood for “Your Educational Station.” WYES signed on the air as Channel 8 and as the twelfth educational television station in the nation. It became Channel 12 in 1970 and has worked to “educate, enlighten, and entertain” for 65 years by offering national programs, award-winning local and cultural documentaries, and community outreach activities.
Commercial real estate agency Corporate Realty Inc. has announced that it is opening a full-service office in Baton Rouge. This new office will be located in One American Place at 301 Main Street and led by Branon W. Pesnell. In 2001, Pesnell began his Baton Rouge commercial real estate career with a seven-year stint at NAI Latter & Blum and then spent 10 years with Beau Box Commercial Real Estate. He was a co-founder of Beau Box Property Management, where he helped build and run a property services division that included property management and leasing efforts for many Baton Rouge projects. He then moved to Houston and worked at Transwestern, where he first specialized in partnering with corporations to optimize real estate value and return on investment, then served as managing director for the company’s Houston Occupier Solutions group, specializing in tenant representation and real estate portfolio consulting for office and industrial real estate. “I could not be more excited to have Branon join Corporate Realty and lead our new full-service office in Baton Rouge,” said Michael J. Siegel, SIOR, president of Corporate Realty, in a press release. “I have known Branon for years, respected his knowledge and his integrity, and I am confident that he will be an ideal partner in growing Corporate Realty’s presence and capabilities in and around Baton Rouge.”
The Orleans Parish School Board unanimously voted to make Avis Williams the new superintendent for the NOLA Public Schools’ (NOLA-PS) district. Williams is the first permanent female superintendent in New Orleans in more than 181 years. “This is an historic moment for our school system and for our city, and the board is excited to extend the superintendency to Dr. Avis Williams. As the first African-American woman appointed to lead our district in its more than 180-year history, her breadth of experience as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, a teacher, principal, assistant principal, principal, and superintendent will help take our students’ education to the next level,” said Olin Parker, OPSB president.
The Young Leadership Council announced Camille Kathleen Sumner as its next executive director. With both French and American citizenship, Sumner has spent her career building bridges between communities and leading the support of social and intercultural projects all over the world. “What I love about YLC is its capacity and ambition to embrace community involvement while enabling young professionals to acquire leadership skills and gain confidence in becoming leaders of the change: their own change plus a positive impact on others,” Sumner said. “The city needs leaders that can create links between communities and set an example for their peers.”
LCMC Health announced that JoAnn Kunkel has been named chief financial officer of the hospital system. Kunkel brings years of finance and healthcare experience to LCMC Health. For the bulk of her career, Kunkel held positions with Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, where she led the transformation of the finance organization together with a team of more than 3,000 finance, accounting, revenue cycle, and analytics professionals. Kunkel also oversaw operational and financial aspects of the $1 billion Sanford Health Plan, serving membership in commercial and individual products including multi-state exchange products, Medicare supplemental and Medicaid expansion lines of business. Immediately prior to joining LCMC Health, Kunkel led financial affairs at the University of South Dakota where she was responsible for leading and developing strategic growth opportunities for the university, including its expansion and enhancement of health care related objectives.