Jellinek hoping to bring his business experience to board | AspenTimes.com

Jellinek hoping to bring his business experience to board

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

(Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of seven profiles of the candidates running in the Aspen Valley Hospital board of directors election. Three incumbents and four challengers are running for three seats. The election is May 7.)

John Jellinek admits it. He’s successful.

He has offices in Aspen and Chicago. He has a private jet. He has a beautiful home on the river in Woody Creek with two Porsches in the garage.

He has 30 years of business experience in the fields of computers, medical equipment and health-care management systems. And Jellinek acquires about 10 companies a year in his role as a private equity investor and the president of Jelco Ventures.

But he knows that in Aspen, being successful in the real world does not necessarily mean the local community will embrace you.

Or elect you to the hospital board.

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Two years ago, he came in third in a three-way race for a seat on the board, getting 257 votes compared to Bob D’Alessio’s 379 votes and Morris Cohen’s 524.

But Jellinek, who lives full time in Pitkin County, said he’s running again for a seat on the board because he was asked to by a group of hospital employees. And because he thinks he can put his professional experience to good use at Aspen Valley Hospital.

“I really know this business,” he said. “I know the drill.”

Jellinek, 57, is originally from Buffalo, N.Y. He went to Miami University in Ohio and then to the University of Chicago business school.

In 1969, he developed and sold one of the first computerized retail point-of-sales systems to McDonald’s, which allowed the company to gather sales data over the phone lines from hundreds of different restaurants.

“We became very successful,” said Jellinek.

He had been exposed to computers and systems at an early age, as his family was in the medical equipment business and still is.

His identical twin brother, Frank, is the CEO of Apogent Technologies, a large medical equipment company.

Jellinek’s career included developing an innovative software system to pay medical claims in 1972 and 20 years later creating an electronic imaging medical records system.

So, Jellinek said, he understands the big picture of hospital technology from equipment, computer and systems standpoints.

And, he stressed repeatedly, he was drafted to run by a group of hospital employees who are not happy with how Aspen Valley Hospital is being managed.

“There is a lot of rumor, innuendo and statements about what the board and management does and does not do,” Jellinek said. “If you hear that enough, in any business, then something is going on.”

Jellinek said he doesn’t have a campaign platform, an agenda or an axe to grind. He said the hospital is “terrific,” and he has high praise for its employees. But he wants to go in and listen and find what is going on at the hospital, which he described as a $50 million-plus business.

“I’m involved in acquiring probably 10 companies a year,” he said, noting that the first thing he does is talk with line employees and then work his way up the management system, listening to what people say about the company.

“And about half the time, the CEO we start with isn’t there in three years because they either don’t understand the drill or they have trouble communicating with employees,” he said.

But Jellinek said he isn’t gunning for Randy Middlebrook, the CEO of Aspen Valley Hospital.

“I have never had a one second conversation with Middlebrook,” Jellinek said.

Yet he doesn’t think AVH employees are being listened to. “If you don’t listen to your own employees, you have a big problem,” he said. “And I don’t think that is going on.”