Sunrise Shines Bright in Elder-Care Industry

Article excerpt

Paul and Terry Klaasen are pioneers in the assisted-living industry, according to analysts. Eighteen years after they founded Sunrise Assisted Living Inc., the company is riding the wave of the increasing need for elder care.

Sunrise, based in Fairfax, owns and runs 79 assisted-living facilities in 14 states. With the acquisition of Karrington Health Inc. in Ohio, expected to close soon, the company will add 40 more homes.

Kathleen Dezio, senior vice president for corporate communications for Sunrise, said the Klaasens founded the company in 1981 and patterned it after facilities in Mr. Klaasen's native Holland.

"Their dream was to create an alternative that would enable frail seniors who really didn't have complex medical needs but who couldn't live alone . . . [to live in] a homelike, residential environment," Ms. Dezio said.

Analysts say that Sunrise has succeeded in becoming one of the premiere assisted living providers in the country. It trades at a premium to its competitors, said analyst Andreas Dirnagl of Gerard Klauer Mattison.

Sunrise's stock closed down 6 cents at $44 on Friday, after hitting a high of $51.88 on Dec. 31.

Jean Swenson of BT Alex Brown, who rates Sunrise's stock a strong buy, said she has been impressed with the company's growth rate since it went public in 1996.

At that time, Mrs. Swenson said, Sunrise owned 30 facilities. Now in addition to the facilities that are up and running, 25 are under construction and 51 properties are in various stages of development.

Mrs. Swenson said that what sets Sunrise apart is "the level of infrastructure that they've devoted to the organization."

She added that Sunrise's market is deep, which Mr. Dirnagl underscored.

"Current development is well below where I think current demand is," he said.

Mr. Dirnagl said that since residents, and not the government, pay for assisted living, the industry targets the middle and upper class.

"While their product is affordable for a broad range of people, they're clearly going for the higher end of the market," he said. …