Chicago-based medical technology company is buying homegrown firm for at least $180 million in cash

SARASOTA — A large medical technology company is buying the homegrown Voalte Inc. for at least $180 million in cash.

Hill-Rom Holdings Inc. of Chicago announced this week that it would acquire Sarasota-based Voalte, a mobile health care communications developer.

Voalte, with about 140 employees, will remain in Sarasota after being integrated into Hill-Rom's Care Communications business, a company official said Wednesday.

"This acquisition is a growth play and isn’t designed to squeeze out costs, so we expect the overwhelming majority of Voalte employees to continue with Hill-Rom," said Howard Karesh, vice president of corporate communications at Hill-Rom.

Founded in 2008, Voalte has long been touted by economic development officials as a top success story in the region's growing tech hub.

The company, which turns smartphones into a communications system for health care settings, connects 220,000 caregivers with voice, alarm and text communications. It serves 230 hospitals and health care providers, including Sarasota Memorial Hospital, through more than 84,000 devices on its mobile platform.

The privately owned company reports nearly $40 million in annual revenues, with steady double-digit growth, Hill-Rom said.

"Our scalable enterprise communication platform is proving to be a critical tool in the digital transformation of health care systems, and we look forward to further developing our platform in alignment with Hill-Rom's vision of advancing connected care," Voalte founder and CEO Trey Lauderdale said. "Bringing our companies together will allow us to offer customers a single, integrated solution — delivering actionable data from smart hospital beds, nurse call and patient monitoring technology right to a caregiver's mobile device."

Post-acquisition, Lauderdale will report to Hill-Rom Patient Support Systems president Paul Johnson, Karesh said.

"Otherwise, reporting structures remain as they are, and we are in discussions with the Voalte leadership team about their roles in the integration and beyond," he added.

The deal calls for a sale price of $180 million in cash, and up to $15 million more in payments tied to the company achieving unspecified "commercial milestones." Hill-Rom expects to close the sale during the third quarter.

Mark Huey, president/CEO at the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County, said he was "thrilled" for the Voalte team.

"Hill-Rom is a global medical technology giant, and their acquisition of Voalte is an affirmation of the emerging tech sector in Sarasota County, and the strengthening of our business support ecosystem for tech companies," Huey said. "The success of Trey and the Voalte team in building an innovative healthcare communication technology company with the support of Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Sarasota County and other local supporters has been exciting to see unfold over the last decade."

The buyer said the combination will strengthen its connected solutions, including smart hospital beds, vital signs monitors, its trademarked LINQ mobile application and its evolving digital offering.

"Interoperability and connectivity have become critical elements in providing quality health care, reducing length of stay and driving efficiencies across the health care continuum," John P. Groetelaars, president/CEO of Hill-Rom, said in a statement. "This transaction strategically fits with our vision of advancing connected care to improve workflow and real-time actionable insights at the point of care, while driving accelerated growth and delivering an attractive margin profile."

Hill-Rom, a global medical tech company with 10,000 employees, continues a robust merger and acquisition pipeline, according to Zacks Equity Research.

"The company aggressively pursues acquisitions to accelerate growth in five key clinical focus areas -- advancing patient mobility, wound care and prevention, surgical safety and efficiency, clinical workflow solutions and respiratory help," Zacks said.