KKR Buys 1-800 Contacts From AEA in $3 Billion-Plus Deal


Private equity firm KKR & Co. agreed to buy contact lens retailer 1-800 Contacts from AEA Investors.

Financial terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed in a joint statement Wednesday that confirmed an earlier Bloomberg News report. The deal values 1-800 Contacts at more than $3 billion, people familiar with the matter have said.

AEA Investors acquired 1-800 Contacts in 2016 from Thomas H. Lee Partners.

“They spent a lot of time investing in telemedicine solutions,” Felix Gernburd, a managing director at KKR, said in an interview. “When shelter-in-place orders were restricting movement, 1-800 Contacts was one of the few places you could go to get your contacts.”

The number of people using the company’s two online eye-exam apps at least tripled at the peak of the shutdown, the statement shows.

In 2014, KKR invested in brick-and-mortar eyewear retailer National Vision Holdings Inc. and then took it public in 2017. That company’s shares are up more than 19% this year.

1-800 Contacts, founded 25 years ago, owns brands including brands Liingo Eyewear, 6over6, Boomerang and Premium Vision. Morgan Stanley and Jefferies Financial Group Inc. are financial advisers to the company.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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