For about the past six months, I’ve been following Kent Thiry, chairman and CEO of kidney dialysis juggernaut DaVita. That he’s more commonly known among his employees and colleagues as “KT” or “the mayor of DaVita Village” gives some idea of how unconventional his leadership style is.

Thiry is goofy, intense, unabashedly emotional, and undeniably driven. He is also wildly successful: Under his leadership, DaVita has evolved from nearly bankrupt when he joined the company about 13 years ago to a rapidly expanding healthcare provider that earns almost $7 billion annually. Thiry, in turn, has become one of the most influential figures in healthcare and an increasingly visible power-player in and around Denver.

Although Thiry and DaVita tell a classic corporate success story, their rise has not been without controversy. The company and its officers have been under federal scrutiny almost since Thiry assumed control, for alleged offenses ranging from unfair business practices to Medicare fraud. What’s more, a small but vocal contingent of DaVita dialysis patients have accused the company of shoddy clinical practices that, in some cases, have allegedly threatened lives.

Even if you haven’t been personally affected by kidney disease, you’ll still want to know more about DaVita and its charismatic leader. It is Thiry’s explicit intention to bring his one-of-a-kind business model to a wider set of healthcare patients and physicians, so it may not be long before a lot more people must rely on DaVita for their healthcare needs—whether they like it or not.

For more on this story, see the September issue of 5280.

—Photo courtesy of DaVita

Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad