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    The week in business


    Seaport developer behind gondola idea hits a snag

    The developer behind the idea for a gondola over the Seaport District has hit a major complication in its plan to redevelop a large section of the marine industrial park and will likely miss a May 31 deadline to begin construction on a smaller section. Millennium Partners, which has proposed running a gondola from a massive new “innovation” campus it wants to build in the industrial park to South Station, has been unable to reach a deal with a major business partner and is at risk of losing its development rights to another parcel that is part of its sprawling development plan. The company has been unable to reach terms with Stavis Seafoods to serve as one of two anchor tenants for a pair of industrial structures on a 6.8-acre slice of vacant waterfront land. Under Millennium’s arrangement with the Massachusetts Port Authority, which owns the land where the industrial buildings would go, Millennium had agreed to line up its tenants and begin construction by end of the day Thursday. Millennium has a deal with the other tenant, cargo firm Boston Freight Terminals. — JON CHESTO


    Mass. businesses looking to cut emergency room visits
    by employees

    Massachusetts businesses, looking to cut their health care costs, are teaming up on a new initiative aimed at sharply cutting the number of people who seek care in hospital emergency rooms when they could be treated elsewhere. Employer groups representing thousands of businesses across the state said Wednesday that they plan to reduce avoidable emergency room visits by 20 percent over the next two years, saving $100 million. More than 40 percent of emergency room visits — or about 1 million a year — are thought to be avoidable, according to state data. Many of these patients show up at hospitals with minor infections, sore throats, skin rashes, allergies, and back pain. Such visits can add to wait times in emergency rooms and drive up costs. Hospitals are many times more expensive than doctors’ offices, urgent care clinics, and retail clinics. Employers said they will tackle the issue by better educating their workers about the most appropriate places to get health care, and by designing insurance plans that discourage unnecessary trips to the emergency room. They have not yet detailed what these incentives might be, but the incentives could include lower out-of-pocket costs for visiting a primary care doctor, higher costs for visiting a hospital — or both. The initiative represents the first time that so many Massachusetts employers have coalesced around a particular driver of health care spending. It has the support of 20 business groups including Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Massachusetts Business Roundtable, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, and Retailers Association of Massachusetts. Hospitals, insurers, and the state Health Policy Commission — which tracks health spending — also back the effort. — PRIYANKA DAYAL MCCLUSKEY


    Ironwood Pharmaceuticals derails proxy fight

    Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc. has short-circuited a potential proxy fight for leadership of the Cambridge-based biotech, at least for now. Seven weeks after Alex Denner said he wanted to join the company’s board of directors to increase its stock value, the activist investor Thursday endorsed Ironwood’s leadership team now that it has agreed to split the company into two independently traded public firms. Ironwood announced that shareholders at Thursday’s annual meeting had voted to reelect all three Ironwood directors who were up for seats again. Denner never filed the necessary paperwork to seek a seat. Under pressure from Denner to increase the value of its stock, Ironwood said May 1 that it would separate into two companies. One will focus on treatments for gastrointestinal diseases and gout, which have been the mainstay of the 20-year-old Ironwood. The biotech’s products include Linzess, a drug for irritable bowel syndrome that last year generated more than $700 million in US sales. The other firm will develop a pipeline of experimental treatments for rare, or orphan, diseases. It’s expected to focus on drugs to treat sickle cell disease, a rare swallowing disorder, and conditions that affect the central nervous system, liver, and lungs. — JONATHAN SALTZMAN


    Athenahealth chief executive acknowledges attacking


    Athenahealth chief executive Jonathan Bush has acknowledged that he physically attacked his then-wife more than 12 years ago, in incidents of domestic violence that have suddenly surfaced this week as his company faces a takeover bid from a New York hedge fund. Court documents, filed in Middlesex family court amid a 2005 divorce proceeding, confirm an account that appeared in an article by the UK publication the Daily Mail. The documents say Bush called Sarah Selden vulgar names, threw things at her, and once gave her a black eye. In one incident described in a legal filing, he pushed Selden into a wall of their Belmont home, “repeatedly slamming his closed fist into her sternum, his hand landing just inches from their baby who was crying.” Bush, in a statement, said the incidents happened “during a particularly difficult personal time in my life.” “I have worked very hard since then to demonstrate my remorse, and today, Sarah and I have a strong, co-parenting relationship,” Bush said. I accept responsibility for my conduct and apologize to everyone involved.” The years-old court records came to light at a particularly fraught time for the Watertown company, which early this month received a $7 billion buyout offer from Elliott Management, one of the most feared activist investors on Wall Street. The investment firm has been pressuring the company to sell, arguing that new ownership could improve the company’s business performance. Elliott, which declined to comment on the domestic violence incidents, has not said whether it would keep Bush on if it took over the company. Bush has previously given up his title of chairman of the company’s board of directors, and has said he will also abdicate his role as president while remaining chief executive. — ANDY ROSEN


    MassChallenge to launch accelerator program
    for fintech startups

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    To think big, sometimes you’ve got to go small. Conditioned to using financial might and scale to their advantage, major mutual fund managers and insurers sometimes have difficulty innovating and adapting to change quickly. Executives often need to maneuver through slow-moving corporate bureaucracies and legacy IT systems. Now, some of the biggest names in Boston’s financial community, including Putnam Investments, Fidelity Investments, and John Hancock, are teaming up with nonprofit MassChallenge to launch an accelerator program for financial technology startups. Called MassChallenge FinTech, the program also includes Springfield-based insurer MassMutual and Citizens Bank of Providence as founding partners. The plan is to match as many as 30 later-stage fintech startups with much larger counterparts. The program, which will launch in January, will be open to local startups but is also designed to draw fintechs from elsewhere. In addition to helping with the program’s costs, the sponsors will suggest industry problems that fintech startups can try to solve, and even could consider business or investment deals with the younger firms. MassChallenge, meanwhile, will provide a workspace at its flagship location on Drydock Avenue, advice on managing projects, and the opportunity to compete for $250,000 in prizes. The big guns hope to find new technologies that they would otherwise have a hard time cultivating in-house. — JON CHESTO