Kindred Healthcare promoting its president to CEO; Current leader to be board vice chairman

Kindred Healthcare picked its president and chief operating officer as its next CEO as the rehabilitation hospital operator's chief executive will step down in March.

The Louisville, Kentucky, company said late Thursday that Benjamin Breier will replace CEO Paul Diaz on March 31 and also will take a seat on Kindred's board. Diaz will become the board's executive vice chairman.

Breier, 43, joined Kindred in 2005. The company named him COO in 2010 and then president two years later.

The succession plan had been known, Susquehanna Financial analyst Chris Rigg said in a research note, and wasn't likely to cause big changes in company strategy for now.

His promotion to CEO, announced after markets closed Thursday, was not a surprise because the succession plan had been known,

Aside from rehabilitation hospitals, Kindred runs transitional care hospitals and provides hospice, home health and contract rehabilitation services. Earlier this month, the company said it was buying home health and hospice care provider Gentiva Health Services Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $719.6 million.

Shares of Kindred Healthcare Inc. added 29 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $21.53 in Friday morning trading, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1 percent. The company's stock has climbed about 8 percent this year, matching the S&P 500's growth.