By Fara Gold Mclaughlin
Many other senior living executives could write this tribute, knowing and working with former Brookdale CEO Bill Sheriff for more time than the two-and-a-half years I was privileged to work for him from 2007 through 2010.
Mr. Sheriff, as I called him, was a quiet, contemplative soul with an inquisitive nature to ask, listen, and learn. I was coached to listen intently when he spoke, as he often paused to thoughtfully to hold your attention, and complete his thought. He was the original “E.F. Hutton,” captivating a room or a conversation with his deliberate oration. Mr. Sheriff captured our attention, in his soft-spoken voice, as he shared his wisdom from a career creating value for all stakeholders.
Upon entering the Brookdale offices for my first meeting with Mr. Sheriff, I saw the historic Frist family founders peering from their portraits on the wall, as guardians of integrity. He welcomed me into his office and sat at his desk, peering over his glasses, critically assessing me with a poker face that, I would come to know, held his thoughts close to his vest. Yet, there was his warm smile and a twinkle in his deeply penetrating eyes that said, “Yes, you will do.”
Mr. Sheriff exuded a paternal confidence that enabled our team to feel supported through the Great Recession, when our stock price dropped from $42 a share to $2.55 a share, to steady our operation to “stay focused on our residents and associates.” Mr. Sheriff demonstrated his ability to stay the course through the Great Recession by asking all of our executive leaders to defer our annual compensation increases and bonuses to ensure our caregivers received their annual wage increases to care at the front lines for our residents.
He was always eager to support creative initiatives like our affiliations with UCLA Brain Research Institute, the Red Hat Society, and Ultimate Chef America programs. He opened his home with warm hospitality and his favorite New Mexican chilis.
Mr. Sheriff found exceptional talent in leading our sales team in Ron Aylor and marketing in Matt Fontana and allowed us to create local, regional, and national initiatives to deliver revenue, occupancy, and shareholder value.
While I know he navigated many corporate challenges integrating acquisitions and working hard to unify the Brookdale brand under a culture of caring and integrity, he never wavered in his commitment to the associates and team members delivering our care and services. He will be remembered as the steward of the original Frist family’s hopes for quality retirement services. Mr. Sheriff influenced a generation of today’s senior living leaders striving to create culture to lead real estate developments filled with a soul of integrity and purpose.