The private equity giant KKR (NYSE: KKR) has swooped in to buy 1-800-Contacts, a name we might all recognize from its catchy commercials. In case you don’t know, 1-800 Contacts is the largest seller of contact lenses in the U.S., serving more than 20 million customers for the last 25 years. The growing portfolio of innovative 1-800 Contacts brands includes Liingo Eyewear, 6over6, Boomerang, and Premium Vision.
KKR is buying the company from AEA Investors for approximately $3.1 billion, according to sources cited in a report in PE Hub. AEA Investors has been the majority shareholder of 1-800 Contacts since 2015 when it purchased the company from Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. AEA Investors and 1-800 Contacts made one acquisition together, according to results in Deal Search Online. In late 2019, 1-800 Contacts purchased Israel-based 6over6 Vision Ltd., which offers a variety of vision test technologies, including retrieving optical parameters from existing lenses and measuring pupillary distance, using a mobile app or a computer. The deal added a variety of telemedicine capabilities to the 1-800 Contacts’ platform.
The timing of the buy could not be better for KKR, which is making the purchase through its Core Investments strategy, which represents capital targeting longer-term opportunities. 1-800 Contacts experienced a 100% increase in new and returning customers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we expect that demand to only increase as virtual healthcare and delivery become the “new normal.”
However, KKR is not the only private equity firm committing significant equity to the consumer healthcare space. In June 2019, Goldman Sachs‘ private equity arm, West Street Capital Partners VII, purchased Capital Vision Services LP, which manages independently owned optometry practices, operating under the trade name MyEyeDr, for $2.7 billion. The company employs approximately 560 optometrists and ophthalmologists.