KKR Buys 1-800 Contacts From AEA

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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 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.

Bloomberg News