River Ridge sold to family company



The owners of the River Ridge Living Center in Amsterdam have decided sell the facility and its operations to a family from New York City.

Susanne and Paul Guttenberg, husband and wife, co-owners and administrators, announced their decision in a letter to residents, families and friends Monday to dismantle the "chatter" among staff and the community.

"In keeping with our vision for the future, River Ridge Living Center is presently undertaking several endeavors that will broaden the services available to our community's aging population," the pair said in the letter.

The couple have invested in a large project to build an assisted living and senior housing complex across the street from their existing complex, but that plan is not coupled with the decision to sell.

But, "the long and short of it," Susanne Guttenberg said, is that she's retiring -- something she's been considering for the past couple of years.

"This is a very intense business," Susanne Guttenberg said. "You're dealing with the most precious commodity and that's human lives. Additionally, we chose someone who we think will be as good to our staff as we've been."

The new owners formed a company called River Ridge Operating, LLC, which is comprised of a family from New York City. According to documents from a Public Health and Health Planning Council meeting on Oct. 3, the co-operators are Ruth Hirsch, Benjamin Einhorn, Michael Braunstein and Edward Braunstein, each with 25 percent ownership.

Susanne Guttenberg, who called the family a group of "nice, nice people," said she and her husband had not been shopping for new owners but were persistently contacted by the family.

"We had no ideas of doing anything," Paul Guttenberg said. "My wife, as she mentioned, she wanted to retire. But we weren't looking to sell."

But, knowing the River Ridge operations and property would stay in a family-owned company and be a personal project of theirs, was appealing to the Guttenbergs.

"That was very important to us," Susanne Guttenberg said. "Because we had the opportunity to sell it to big corporations, but we wanted this to be very important to somebody."

The family has been in the nursing home industry, Paul Guttenberg said, but does not own any property in the area. They do, however, own facilities in New Jersey and Connecticut, Susanne Guttenberg said.

After the family pushed forward to get state approval to own the residential health care facility, the Guttenbergs said they knew they were committed. River Ridge Operating received approval from the Public Health and Health Planning Council based on its financials and needs, though contingent upon additional paperwork.

The process, Susanne Guttenberg, who recalls when she and her husband went through it, requires an "elaborate application." She said it would be months before the deal was closed and wished not to disclose any figures involved in the agreement.

According to the documents from the health council, River Ridge Operating, LLC will acquire the operating assets for $1.8 million, to be funded as follows: $360,000 from members' equity and a 10-year $1.4 million mortgage with a 5.75 percent interest rate.

The real property, according to the documents, will be purchased for $7.2 million and will additionally be funded as follows: $1.4 million in members' equity and a 10-year $5.7 million mortgage with a 20-year amortization schedule at a 5.75 percent interest rate.

River Ridge Operating has also expressed interest in partnering with Paul Guttenberg on his $25 million construction of an assisted living facility and independent senior living community adjacent from the existing building on Sandy Drive.

Paul Guttenberg will continue to work on that project and he said he does not plan on retiring with his wife.

The state approved the new housing complex in late 2012. Paul Guttenberg said the project will include a three-story assisted living center with 120 beds south of the existing center. It will employ about 100 people and 200 people during construction.

Susanne Guttenberg said both she and River Ridge Operating, have intentions to make the transition as smooth as possible, with little to no noticeable changes when the ownership switches.

In response to whether the family will be sending members of the company to work on grounds, Susanne Guttenberg explained the family's philosophy.

"As long as things run well, they let people do their jobs," Susanne Guttenberg said. "If there's a problem they'll take care of it."

Susanne Guttenberg said the decision is bittersweet, but she believes she and her husband will be leaving River Ridge in good hands.

"This staff are our family," she said. "We love them. Some people have been with us since day one and they've worked really hard. It's going to be very hard. But the fact that I can always walk back in here and visit to keep touch with people helps."