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Meet the CEO Who Makes His Staff Sing the Company Song

Few people are familiar with Kent Thiry, CEO of dialysis services company Davita (DVA), but his employees certainly are: He makes them sing the Davita corporate song "hundreds" of times a year. The song, "On Davita!" is like all corporate songs -- terrible. Thiry admits it's a bizarre practice, but it seems to work. Davita has gone from a failing company with revenues of $1.4 billion in 1999 and a stock price of under $2 in 2000, to $6.4 billion in revenues in 2010 and $83/share today. The company is stable and the stock is up.

So what's the problem? Thiry has arguably built a very expensive personality cult around himself in the process. Thiry made $14 million in compensation at Davita last year, and $36.8 million in the last three years. He's the 24th highest paid CEO in the nation, according to Forbes. Most of it comes from taxpayer dollars.

Here's a video of Thiry giving a talk at the Stanford business school:

It's ordinary stuff until you get to the 8 minute mark. At that point, Thiry plays the song ("On Davita, on Davita! - New! Ours! Special!") and says:

That's been sung hundreds of times a year. Every single one of our administrators that runs our centers comes in for professional development every year ... we sing them that song.
Some people think it's ridiculous but it gets everyone's attention. They say, Woah, these guys are either bizarre or they're serious or both. One of the two. We start executive meetings by singing this song. It's exceedingly uncomfortable for lots of people. What does it achieve? It achieves that people know this is a very conscious thing. Doesn't mean it's sincere. But it really puts it out there.

The one musketeer
This has been going on for years. Thiry also roams the halls dressed as one of the three musketeers. "I wear it at times," Thiry told the Denver Post. "To call it a costume would trivialize it." And the New York Times reported:
In a skit presented at a DaVita employee meeting two years ago, a DaVita musketeer killed a federal bureaucrat -- dressed in black hat and bandit's mask -- who threatened to cut the reimbursement for dialysis. Another musketeer killed a federal prosecutor.
I'm not suggesting that Thiry literally wants to kill federal bureaucrats, but he ought to be a bit more respectful to them given that Medicaid and other government healthcare programs provide 66 percent of his company's revenues, according to the Davita annual report. Taxpayers -- and the federal bureaucrats they employ -- are also paying for 66 percent of Thiry's luxurious compensation package:
  • Annual compensation of Davita CEO Kent Thiry: 2010: $14 million
    2009: $11.7 million
    2008: $11 million
  • Total: $36.78 million
Taxpapers will continue to pad Thiry's bank account next year, too. The board just re-upped Thiry's pay deal for 2011. All for one -- Kent Thiry! -- and, er ... that's it!


Image by Wikimedia, CC.
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