A prime candidate to run LSU hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe pulled out Monday, citing potential anti-trust challenges.

James K. Elrod, president of the Shreveport-based Willis-Knighton Health System, announced the decision in a news release. Hospital system officials had no further comment, spokeswoman Marilyn Joiner said.

The LSU Board of Supervisors last week approved a memorandum of understanding with the Biomedical Research Foundation to work out a deal for the management and operation of the two hospitals, which are key to LSU medical education efforts.

“Over the past seven months, a Willis-Knighton team has worked exhaustively and at significant expense to complete our due diligence in regard to this laudable initiative,” Elrod said.

Elrod said the system’s board, administrators, physicians, staff “and many consultants specially hired for this work sought to determine the proper place for WKHS in a new health care services model in and for our communities ... Ultimately, after many months of this work, we determined Willis-Knighton is not in a position to partner with the Biomedical Research Foundation in this initiative.”

Elrod’s statement mentioned required regulatory approvals and the potential for challenges.

“We determined that costly anti-trust challenges would certainly be brought against WKHS if we added LSU Medical Center market share to that we already have,” he said.

Willis-Knighton Health System is the largest medical center in a five-state region and is the region’s only locally owned and operated health system.

According to its literature, the health system’s 5,800 employees and physician network of 360 providers, deliver care at four campuses spanning 600 acres.

Elrod said the Willis-Knighton Health System would continue to assist the LSU School of Medicine, noting that during the past 20 years, it has contributed $84.5 million in support of graduate medical education.