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Private Equity Firm Acquires Three Regional Eyecare Groups and Forms Acuity Eyecare Holdings

By dba Staff
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 12:10 PM


Eyetique (shown above) is one of three regional optical firms acquired by Riata Capital

DALLAS—Riata Capital Group, a private equity firm based here, has made a significant move into the optical business with its acquisition of three regional eyecare groups. The three regional firms—Crown Vision Center of St. Louis, Eyetique of Pittsburgh and International Eyecare Center of Quincy, Ill.—will be folded into a new company, Acuity Eyecare Holdings, according to Riata Capital’s announcement of the deal late last month.

The financial terms of the transactions were not disclosed. Matt Matthews, who was chief executive officer of Crown Vision, has been named chief executive officer of Acuity Eyecare.

“We are excited to be a part of the Acuity platform, which is well-positioned for success with the support of Riata, an experienced capital partner that brings a deep set of industry relationships,” Matthews said in the Riata Capital announcement.

“In addition to the existing leadership teams at each of the three businesses, we have an impressive team at Acuity that brings substantial experience in important areas including medical eyecare, digital manufacturing and lab management, merchandising, supply chain, finance and IT.”

Some of the principals on the investor side of the deal are returning to the optical business after a short hiatus. For example, Jeff Fronterhouse, a managing partner of Riata Capital, was a co-founder and co-chief executive of Brazos Private Equity Partners, which acquired a stake in Vision Source in 2011.

Vision Source grew from 2,300 locations to more than 3,150 during Brazos’ investment in the group, the Riata Capital announcement noted. Essilor of America acquired Vision Source in late 2015, and Brazos exited the business at that time. Acuity will begin operations with 61 locations across five states and a large, full-service digital lab near St. Louis. Riata said it intends to “expand Acuity into a market-leading eyecare platform through the acquisition of additional regional eyecare groups and independent eyecare professionals,” according to the announcement.

Crown Vision Center operates 28 optical locations and a full-service digital lab, according to the announcement. The company, along with Eyetique, was ranked among the Top 50 Optical Retailers in the U.S. market by Vision Monday in the 2016 report. Eyetique operates 21 eyecare centers, under the brands Eyetique, 3 Guys Optical Center, Norman Childs Eyewear and Chromos Eyewear. International Eyecare Center, which was founded by Dr. Jack McDougall in 1981, has grown from a single location in Quincy, Ill., to 12 locations serving Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.

In addition to Matthews, the Acuity management team includes Doug Shepard, a former chief financial officer of Eye Care Centers of America, who will hold the same title with Acuity. George Gebhardt, a former chief marketing officer of Visionworks, has taken on this title and position with the new entity, and Bret Davis was named vice president of corporate development. Davis is a former senior vice president of business development for Vision Source.

Other senior executives from the leadership teams of Crown Vision, Eyetique and International Eyecare also will have roles in the new management team, according to the announcement. Acuity also has assembled a board of directors consisting of “experienced and very successful executives from the industry that will bring valuable insight as Acuity looks to expand.” “We are excited to build upon our strong network of relationships, experience and track record in the eyecare industry to create Acuity Eyecare,” Fronterhouse said in the statement. “We understand the pressures, as well as the opportunities, for optometrists as the industry continues to evolve.

“As such, we see the formation of larger and vertically integrated corporate entities leading some smaller and mid-sized providers to consider partnering with groups like Acuity that can provide capable business, financial and commercial support, allowing optometrists and their staffs to focus on meeting the eyecare and product needs of their patients,” Fronterhouse added.

Fronterhouse said the three eyecare groups that are combining under the Acuity umbrella have achieved “higher rates of sales growth than the overall market,” and that they will provide Acuity with a strong initial base of operations in the Midwest region.

“Our focus going forward will be to support these groups, as well as others that join Acuity, with the tools and resources necessary to provide their patients with full-scope professional eyecare and the highest quality product assortment and value,” he said.

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