Trowbridge brings his ‘wisdom’ to RDI

Saturday, July 31, 2004

FOLEY, Ala. - Keith Trowbridge, former president of Liberty Medical Supply, recently saddled a new challenge with the announcement in June that he has taken the reins at Respiratory Distributors, Inc. as president and CEO.

Trowbridge, who resigned from Liberty in February, takes over at RDI during a time when steep cuts threaten the inhalation drug business.

“[That challenge] is what makes it fun,” said Trowbridge in an interview with HME News. “I believe that calmer heads will prevail and that a reasonable reimbursement rate will come out of the conversations on the Hill between now and the first of the year.”

During his five-year tenure at Liberty, Trowbridge helped build Liberty Home Pharmacy and grew the company’s revenues from $100 million to about $450 million. Trowbridge said he hopes parallels between the two companies will translate into similar growth.

“Liberty had a good brand, and I think RDI has a strong brand recognition,” he said. “I think we have a really dynamic management team here, which I was impressed with when I met them, and those are a lot of the similarities I walked into at Liberty.”

The move comes as a surprise to some in the business who are curious about the bridge Trowbridge plans to build between his past as a supplier and his future as a wholesaler. While RDI distributes respiratory meds mostly to pharmacies, Liberty markets direct to the consumer.

“[RDI’s customers] typically wouldn’t look to Keith as an ally unless he can do what Bill Kennedy [Rotech’s founder] is doing at Nephron,” said one industry source. “Bill says, ‘Look, I‘ve been in it, and I know I competed with you, but I’ll show you how to be as strong as I once was.’”

“Hopefully I’ll bring a bit of wisdom from the direct-to-consumer to the wholesale side,” said Trowbridge. “Hopefully some of the unique concepts that are out there for selling direct to consumers will work with independents and pharmacies.”

Despite his success with Liberty Home Pharmacy, Trowbridge said there are no plans to shift to a direct-to-consumer sales focus for RDI, a specialty distributor with a concentration on treatments for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

“RDI is clearly a homecare distributor and that’s our core strategy. That’s our core competence and we feel very comfortable in that segment. I feel very comfortable in that segment as well,” said Trowbridge. “We have no plans to stray from that.”

The company does hope to broaden its product line to include products and services associated with COPD’s co-morbidities.

“The respiratory pharmacies we sell to provide other products, and we would like to work with them to provide those other products,” said Trowbridge. “Currently, we are evolving a strategy we feel will be accepted by the market.

Trowbridge replaces Marty McClantoc, who had served as CEO since May 2001. The change of guard follows this winter’s acquisition of RDI by Sun Capital Partners, a private investment firm.