Wall Street investors took over emergency-care companies, and, well, you can guess what happened next

Firefighters battling the King Fire watch as a backfire burns along Highway 50 in Fresh Pond, California.
Thomson Reuters

Private-equity investors seem to have a piece of every pie, from your latest mortgage payment and bite of a Cinnabon roll to a shopping spree at retailer J. Crew.

These investors have swept into emergency care and firefighting since the financial crisis, according to a new investigative series by The New York Times.

They saw “tremendous growth potential” in the ambulance business, according to the report. Some of the bets didn’t pay off as expected, though.

The story highlighted Rural/Metro, a struggling ambulance company that operates in 20 states. Its first private-equity owner was Warburg Pincus.

The company pursued aggressive billing practices during that period and slashed costs, according to the report. Here is The New York Times on Warburg’s ownership:

“During that period, Rural/Metro’s response times slowed in certain towns and it instituted more aggressive billing practices across the board, records show. While under the control of Warburg, Rural/Metro once sent a $761 collections notice to an infant girl born in an ambulance.”

The company eventually went into bankruptcy, at which point a distressed debt specialist, Oaktree, took a stake. The company is now owned by Envision Healthcare.

The full report is full of details about Rural/Metro and other emergency-care businesses owned by private-equity companies. Head over to The New York Times for the full series.