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Blackstone’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders interviewing bankers for strategic review, sources say

The Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), one of the largest US autism treatment providers, has been interviewing bankers about strategic alternatives that may include a sale of all or part of the business, according to three sources familiar with the matter.   

CARD has been a portfolio company of Blackstone [NYSE:BX] since 2018, when it purchased the Plano, Texas-based business for an undisclosed price in a bid to build a national platform to treat a growing population of patients with autism spectrum disorder and other neurological conditions, the company said.   

Mergermarket reported in March 2018 that CARD generated EBITDA of USD 20m to USD 25m in the auction process prior to the sale to Blackstone. However, the company has since faced headwinds and now has negative EBITDA, two of the sources said.  

The company last February named Jennifer Webster, its CFO, to be the CEO, replacing former CEO Tony Kilgore, who recently resigned, according to a press release.   

Ares Management is a significant debtholder in CARD, having backed the Blackstone buyout, and would have a say in any strategic options chosen, two of the sources said.   

CARD bills itself as “the nation’s leading treatment provider with over 40 years experience,” according to its website. The company was founded in 1990 in Los Angeles and has since treated tens of thousands of patients with locations throughout the US, it said.   

The move comes amid challenges for other autism services providers, according to an industry source. There is high demand for autism treatment services, but there are not enough qualified therapists in a difficult-to-treat patient pool, the source said.   

Behavioral Health Business, a trade journal, reported last month that CARD, which in 2021 operated in 24 states with 221 locations, is shutting down operations in 10 states.

A CARD official declined to comment on any strategic review but said the closures in certain states represented "a small proportion of our patient base, and our footprint is much larger in other states." 

Blackstone and Ares declined to comment.