Varsity Healthcare Partners Announces New Senior Additions to Investment, Operating Teams; Merrick Axel Joins VHP as Partner, Head of Chicago Office

September 8, 2022

LOS ANGELES – September 8, 2022 – Varsity Healthcare Partners (“VHP”, “Varsity” or “the Firm”), a lower middle market healthcare services private equity investment firm, today announced several recent and significant senior additions to its investment and operating teams, effective immediately.

With respect to the VHP investment team, Varsity announced that Merrick Axel has joined the firm in the role of Partner, following a 16-year tenure at Cressey & Company, where he was a Partner and member of the Investment Committee, jointly leading Cressey & Company’s successful investment efforts across many healthcare services segments. Mr. Axel will join Varsity’s Investment Committee and lead the Firm’s new Chicago office, for which it is actively recruiting investment professionals.

Additionally, with respect to the VHP Operating team, Varsity announced three recent senior hires, who will add immediate, necessary capacity while also deepening VHP’s financial operational and data science capabilities: (a) Rosemary Free, who joins VHP in the role of Operating Partner, Financial Operations, following her recent tenure as CFO of Vision Innovation Partners and prior thereto serving as Partner in Ernst & Young’s Healthcare Transaction Advisory Services practices, where she lead the Northeast Region, advising private equity and corporate clients on a variety of operational, restructuring, and sell/buy-side engagements, (b) Jay McKnight, who joins the Firm in the role of Operating Partner, Financial Operations, following a successful tenure at Diversicare Healthcare Services, a leading national skilled nursing and post-acute services organization, where he recently served as CEO, overseeing 61 nursing centers with 7,250 licensed beds and supported Diversicare’s 4,800 employees nationwide; and (c) Robert McElherne, who joins VHP in the role of Operating Partner, Data Scientist, following his most recent tenure at Humana, where he served most recently as Technical Product Leader, supporting enterprise data science needs of Humana’s Medicare and Medicaid managed care products, and prior thereto served as Manager, Provider Analytics, within Humana’s Physician Performance Insights group.

“Our mission, going back to the founding of VHP, has always been to strive for the very best investment performance and create the very best organization in our category,” said David Alpern, Founding and Managing Partner at Varsity Healthcare Partners. “These highly impactful additions will accelerate our efforts towards achieving that mission, while adding immediate and necessary resources, raising the talent level, and enhancing our culture with like-minded, proven leaders.

Kenton Rosenberry, Founding Partner, added, “We welcome Merrick, a longtime friend of the firm and an accomplished healthcare investor and leader, along with Rosemary, Jay, and Robert to the VHP ranks and look forward to the impact they will have on our organization and investments.”


Varsity Healthcare Partners (VHP) is a leading lower middle-market healthcare services private equity investment firm, targeting exclusively multi-site healthcare provider platforms or businesses providing outsourced services, technology, or tools to healthcare providers and/or payers. VHP’s tactical investment strategy emphasizes identifying and transacting with growth-seeking, provider-owned or founder-owned companies, leveraging VHP’s developed “buy and build” playbook to drive significant operational, managerial enhancement early in the life of each platform investment, followed by a well-resourced aggressive and multidimensional growth plan. VHP’s unique tactical investment playbook and strong track record is complimented by VHP’s distinct organizational culture, emphasizing highly collaborative engagement, strong professional accountability, and a commitment to excellence in work product and team performance.


Mickey Mandelbaum or Julia Cohen
Prosek Partners
(212) 279-3115 /

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