Mixon steps down as Invacare CEO; Blouch promoted to top spot

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ELYRIA, Ohio - Mal Mixon stepped down as CEO of Invacare last week after 32 years at the helm and passed the baton to President Gerry Blouch, who joined the company 20 years ago as its first chief financial officer. Blouch, 64, has served as interim CEO since Mixon, 70, suffered a mild stroke last spring. He assumes his new role officially Jan. 1, 2011, but wants to make one thing very clear: Just because Mixon's no longer CEO, don't expect him to fade into the woodwork. Among other things, he'll serve as chairman of Invacare's board and continue to help with industry government relation efforts. "There is only one Mal Mixon," Blouch said. "He's got so much personal equity in Washington and the industry, and that is not something you can replace." Blouch talked to HME News last week about his transition to CEO.

HME News: Are you excited about becoming CEO?

Gerry Blouch: In all honesty, it's not as significant on the inside as it seems on the outside. The senior group has been together for a long time. We have gradually brought in some young talent, and Mal is still involved. It is comfortable. And I think it is good for the organization to have some certainty about the direction and what we are doing.

HME: Did Mal step down for health reasons?

Blouch: That is a personal decision for Mal. I just think he thought it was the right time for the transition. His attitude is super. His morale is great. He's still the same charming, engaged guy he has always been. He's an iconic figure in the industry, and nobody wants to kick him to the back of the bus.

HME: One of your key jobs as CEO will be to continue streamlining the company's operations. How will this increased efficiency help providers?

Blouch: It should be in a more robust assortment of products and better quality. There are products, solutions and services that we developed in different markets around the world. So in France, in Germany, in the United States, in the United Kingdom and in Australia, they'll see a broadening of products. To those markets, it will seem like we are getting bigger, but it will really be a consolidation of disparate provincial products into one unified global portfolio of products.

HME: What is your vision for the company?

Blouch: The foundation piece is a single brand promise. We started down that path a good 15 years ago. We were a house of brands--not a branded house. The benefit of a single brand promise is that Invacare means something to people other than it is a corporation that has a bunch of brands. It represents quality. It represents reliability. It represents innovation. We expect to invest the benefits of the globalization into R&D. We want to double our spending on R&D. Having a more robust portfolio of innovative products is critical to our growth as a company and to our value to providers.

HME: How do you see the industry's future unfolding?

Blouch: I have no reservations about the place of the home healthcare industry in the healthcare continuum. It is a cost effective solution to the healthcare needs of the country and to the industrialized world. But with that comes the need for a more robust portfolio of products that offer clinical solutions for therapies that follow the patient from institutions to the home.