Erlanger and CEO Will Jackson part ways

Erlanger Health System President and CEO Dr. Will Jackson's tenure at Chattanooga's largest health system ended Friday, according to a statement from the Erlanger board of trustees.

The board will "immediately" begin exploring options for a new CEO while Chief Operating Officer Rob Maloney, Chief Administrative Officer Gregg Gentry and Chief Financial Officer Lynn DeJaco will take over hospital leadership in the interim.

"Dr. Jackson has served Erlanger with distinction for six and a half years, the last three as president and CEO, and the board appreciates there are other opportunities for which Dr. Jackson is well-suited to advance his career in the industry," the statement reads. "[The board] is grateful for Dr. Jackson's work and important contributions over the last two years as Erlanger has navigated the global pandemic and worked to improve its financial position."

As of noon Friday, Board Chairman Jim Coleman had not yet responded to questions about why the board decided to part ways with Jackson before his two-year contract was set to expire in September.

It was unclear Friday afternoon whether Jackson would be receiving any severance pay.

Jackson declined to comment via a spokesperson.

In April, Jackson was one of four finalists in the CEO search for one of South Florida's largest public hospitals, but another candidate was ultimately chosen for that role.

Jackson, Erlanger's former chief medical officer, became Erlanger's CEO in Sept. 2019.

He was initially awarded a one-year contract with a $625,000 base salary and received another $50,000 for meeting a set of goals around restructuring the hospital's management and improving physician relations.

At the time, the board said promoting an internal candidate with a one-year contract rather than appointing an interim and undergoing a new CEO search would lead to greater stability and also save money.

The board then approved a new, two-year contract with Jackson in June 2020.

In October 2021, the board bumped Jackson's annual salary up from $625,000 to $806,000.

Jackson's predecessor, Kevin Spiegel, began at Erlanger in 2013 making $680,000 per year base salary with a $50,000 sign-on bonus, according to a copy of his former contract.

Unlike Jackson, who had never held a CEO position, Spiegel came to Erlanger with experience as CEO at Methodist Healthcare in Memphis.

By the time of his departure, Spiegel's base salary was $964,000.

Under Jackson's leadership, Erlanger has weathered both the COVID-19 pandemic and made Erlanger profitable again, which required cutting expenses - the largest of which is labor.

As of its 2020 annual report, Erlanger had more than 7,700 employees overall.

Though the health system is still Chattanooga's largest employer, Erlanger now employs roughly 6,300 full- and part-time workers, according to a spokesperson.

This is a developing story. Stay with the Times Free Press for updates.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673. Follow her on Twitter @ecfite.