Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

ZirMed in merger deal with Georgia medical tech company

ZirMed, the Louisville-based medical software company, which recently streamlined operations, announced on Thursday that it would join forces with Navicure of Duluth, Ga., a health care concern backed by Bain Capital.

Financial terms were not released, but Reuters reported that Navicure was acquiring ZirMed in the deal that valued ZirMed at $750 million. The companies said in a press release the deal was expected to close in the fourth quarter.

In a brief interview Thursday afternoon before he caught a plane, Jim Lacy, chief financial officer of ZirMed, said the deal was “a combination of the two largest, most highly respected and highest-growing health care tech companies.”

Jim Lacy

Lacy said ZirMed, lifted by Sequoia Capital’s investment in 2009, had seen impressive growth. “For Louisville, it’s a really big deal to become a software success, and that the money is not leaving is also important.”

ZirMed and Navicure describe themselves as technology leaders in health care revenue cycle management. In combining, they said, they will join forces to provide over 400,000 hospitals, health systems and ambulatory services organizations, including physician practices, with a “comprehensive suite of analytics-driven solutions proven to help improve financial performance.”

ZirMed’s CEO Tom Butts said in a press release that he expected a smooth transition. On its Twitter feed, the company said, “We look forward to joining the team to accelerate innovation.”

In a blog post, Jim Denny, president and CEO of Navicure, noted that “Both Navicure and ZirMed have consistently ranked as leaders in the market for the past decade,” and that “We strongly believe we will be even better together.”

The combined companies said they would maintain their brands and keep locations and teams in Duluth, Louisville and Chicago. ZirMed has about 500 employees in Louisville, Lacy said, plus about 100 in Chicago and elsewhere. —Mickey Meece

Humana CEO sees continued Medicare Advantage growth, citing support of Congress, White House

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard fielded questions about the Louisville-based health insurer at a Morgan Stanley health care conference on Tuesday, saying that he anticipated continued growth in the company’s Medicare Advantage business.

Medicaid Advantage (MA) growth has already been cited as a key factor in Humana’s positive financial performance in the first two quarters of this year, and Broussard said he expected the 31 percent market penetration of MA to only increase as more customers move away from the Medicare fee-for-service model. He said that trend would continue due to “a combination of demographic changes, value proposition improvement and the political environment.”

Expanding on the current political environment, Broussard said: “We think the administration along with the Congress is very supportive of MA. We believe that the political support is high, unlike it was back in the early part of 2010 and the first few years of the implementation of ACA… We see a very strong support that it’s one of the few programs that pays on quality, pays on risk management, so to speak, and clinical outcomes.”

As for what the new Trump administration could mean for any future prospect of a Humana merger – as the proposed Aetna-Humana merger was struck down last year on antitrust grounds – Broussard said there is “a lot of speculation,” but “for us to enter into any transaction, it has to be strategic. Obviously, it has to be value enhancing over the long-term for our shareholders, and it has to be probable to get done – and that probability is highly dependent on how you would overcome some of the membership overlap.” —Joe Sonka

Papa John’s puts out call for new creative

Brandon Rhoten | Courtesy of Papa John’s

Louisville-based Papa John’s International may be looking to shake up its marketing.

According to Ad Age, the pizza chain has asked 10 marketing agencies and holding companies to submit proposals for a chance to become its new creative partner. Papa John’s will review and evaluate the proposals before the end of the year.

New York City-based Grey is Papa John’s current creative agency, and it is in the running to remain so, Ad Age wrote.

The company is looking for an agency to help improve its digital ordering and social media, not “a TV agency,” Papa John’s chief marketing officer Brandon Rhoten told Ad Age.

Rhoten joined Papa John’s team this past spring. A review such as this isn’t uncommon when a new chief marketing officer takes the job. According to Ad Age, creative is the only marketing partner under review. —Caitlin Bowling

Proposed St. Matthews project killed

The development was called The Stockwell. | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

The St. Matthews City Council voted down a proposed mixed-use development Tuesday.

The development faced considerable opposition from some St. Matthews residents who took issue with the increased traffic and safety problems it would create. They also stated that the development didn’t fit the area.

The project would have included a eight-story, 276-unit apartment building with a Crossfit facility, a swimming pool, 13,000-square-feet of rooftop green space and 15,345-square-feet of retail and restaurant space. The developer Investment Property Advisors needed the city council to vote OK on eliminate existing development restrictions on the property and to permit the closure a section of North and South Church Way.

Investment Property Advisors partner Chase Sorrick previously told Insider that his company liked the former Tafel Motors property because it was close to retail and offices. The development, he said, would have been the first new apartments built in the area in a while.

Insider reached out to Sorrick and the company’s attorney Jon Baker, with Wyatt Tarrant & Combs LLP, to see if the company planned to abandon the project altogether or alter its plans for the property and try to get approvals. Neither replied by press time. —Caitlin Bowling

Bardstown Road could get some extra hands to help with cleanup

Councilman Brandon Coan | Photo by Peter Campelli

By January 2019, a dedicated team of people could be to traversing Bardstown Road seven days a week picking up trash, cleaning graffiti and performing other tasks aimed at keeping Bardstown Road beautiful. The workers also would assist Louisville Metro Police Department by keeping an eye out.

That is the hope of Louisville Metro Councilman Brandon Coan, D-8, at least, but he will need buy-in from most of the property owners along Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue, from Broadway to Douglass Loop.

Coan noted in his regular email to constituents that he is continuing to work on making that stretch of Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue a business improvement district, similar to the Louisville Downtown Management District. This coming January, he will start petitioning the 249 people who own property along those streets for support as the district would be funded by those property owners.

As part of the process, the Bardstown Road BID Exploratory Committee, which is comprised of business and property owner and other stakeholders. was created. The committee is studying the possibility of creating a business improvement district and make recommendations. —Caitlin Bowling

Kroger begins selling meal kits

The meal kits cost $14 to $20 and feed two. | Courtesy of Kroger

After shopping for the week’s groceries, the thought of preparing and cooking a full meal can seem taxing, but Kroger has introduced a new offering that aims to make it easier.

The grocery chain this week started selling prepared meal kits called Prep+Pared that contain the ingredients, measured and chopped, for a meal for two.

“Kroger continuously looks for ways to make our customers lives easier and they have told us they want fresh, convenient and affordable meal solutions,” Erin Grant, corporate affairs manager for the Louisville Division, said in a news release. “With Prep+Pared, we’ve taken all of the work behind planning and preparing a fresh, delicious meal and made it easy to cook in just minutes.”

The kits are offered in the following six Louisville area stores:

  • 2440 Bardstown Road
  • 2219 Holiday Manor
  • 9440 Brownsboro Road
  • 200 New Albany Plaza in New Albany, Ind.
  • 9151 U.S. Hwy. 42 in Prospect
  • 279 Hubbards Lane

The meal kits, which also are Kroger’s answer to subscription services such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh, cost $14 to $20. Currently, there are eight recipes to choose from, including chimichurri steak, Peruvian salmon, crispy fish tacos and chicken enchiladas rojas. —Caitlin Bowling

Peerless partners with Fetzer to help with distribution

Peerless Rye Whiskey | Courtesy of Kentucky Peerless Distilling

On Tuesday, Kentucky Peerless Distilling CEO Corky Taylor announced that his Louisville distillery was forging a partnership with California-based Fetzer Vineyards to help with sales distribution in the U.S. and abroad. This does not mean the distillery is being purchased, however.

“Peerless will remain independent and wholly owned by my family, descendants of the founder and my great-grandfather, Henry Kraver, established in 1889,” said Taylor in the press release. “We have complete confidence in Fetzer’s vast and knowledgeable sales team, in the alcohol beverage space and the strength of its longstanding wholesaler relations.”

The partnership will put Peerless products, like the recently released Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, into high-end retailers in larger cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas and Los Angeles, among many others. Peerless currently is only available here and in Washington, D.C.

Peerless will be the first whiskey the Fetzer brand has offered since establishing in 1968. It also reps wines like Bonterra Organic Vineyards, Jekel, Sanctuary, Adorada and 1000 Stories, a bourbon barrel-aged zinfandel. —Sara Havens

In Brief

Leadership Louisville put out a call for the next class of the Bingham Fellows, with the 2018 topic to address “A Safe and Thriving City.” An information session is set for Oct. 5 at Metro United Way. Applications are open through Oct. 27.

Today, representatives from Waterfront Botanical Gardens, the City of Louisville and One Southern Indiana will break ground on a 6,000-square-feet facility at 1410 Frankfort Ave. So far, the organization says on its website, it has raised $5.9 million toward its goal of $7.9 million for the first phase of the project.

Brown-Forman was named one of the “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion” on Tuesday by the 2017 Disability Equality Index. The survey was conducted by the U.S. Business Leadership Network and the American Association of People with Disabilities. B-F received a perfect score.