By  Geert De Lombaerde


Community Health Systems Chairman and CEO Wayne Smith has in the past week put to work more than $3.3 million to grow his stake in the hospital company by some 40 percent.

Smith has been active in the market since last Friday, the day after the company’s stock fell nearly 8 percent. That day, he bought more than 323,000 shares. He followed that up with purchases of about 491,000 shares on Monday and nearly 179,000 shares Tuesday.

A search of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s database shows the recent purchases were Smith’s first on the open market since October 2011. The 73-year-old has during his 22 years at the helm of Franklin-based CHS built his equity stake in the company via stock grants and the exercising of options. He now directly and indirectly controls a little more than 3.3 million CHS shares, about 2.8 percent of the company’s total.

CHS — which has sold dozens of hospitals since growing to more than 200 facilities by buying HMA five years ago — filed notice of Smith’s recent purchases a day after a hedge fund outlined a big bearish thesis for CHS at an investment conference and said he expects the company’s to file for bankruptcy in the coming years because of its still-heavy debt load and the secular decline in many of its hospital markets.

That report helped push down CHS shares (Ticker: CYH) 9 percent Tuesday but investors reversed that Wednesday. Around noon, the stock was changing hands at about $3.51, about 4 percent above the average price Smith paid in the past week.

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