Refac and Its U.S. Vision Subsidiary to Acquire Nationwide Vision


GLENDORA, N.J. -- Refac Holdings, and its main subsidiary U.S. Vision, the sixth largest retail optical chain in the U.S., announced today the signing of an agreement to acquire Nationwide Vision, the largest optical retail chain in Arizona and the 19th largest in the U.S.

The terms of the deal were undisclosed. Financing for the transaction is being provided by Fifth Street Finance Corp, Refac’s existing lender. Subject to various regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2013.

Founded in 1985, the privately-held Nationwide Vision established itself as the leading vision care provider in Arizona by providing unmatched patient care, exceptional service, and premium products. Through its two state-of-the-art medical centers and 64 retail locations Nationwide provides comprehensive ocular health solutions beyond traditional retail eyecare, including high quality corrective options via multiple laser technologies at its Laser Surgery Center. President and CEO of Nationwide Vision, Al Bernstein will continue as CEO of the business when the deal is concluded.

The acquisition continues Refac Optical Group’s growth strategy, which is based on growing revenue and margins at existing stores, opening new stores within existing hosts, developing new host relationships, and strategic acquisitions of both in-host and, now, freestanding businesses. David Pierson, CEO, Refac, told VMail, "The addition of Al and his management team are a significant step toward our goals. Nationwide Vision was one of the first freestanding acquisitions we wanted to pursue, because of its size and its expert management team. And we’re delighted to bring on this team -- Nationwide is a very well-run group."

When the deal is completed, Nationwide will be operated as a separate division of Refac, executives told VMail, and joining Bernstein will be other Nationwide senior officers and staff, among them Vince Hayes, Nationwide’s VP managed care, Tom Hull, CFO and Mark Peller, OD, president of Nationwide Optometry PC. The group will continue to be based in Arizona.

Pierson added, "We believe there are opportunities for other local and regional chains for us to have conversations with. We’ll be actively pursuing that as a pillar of our growth strategy. One of our priorities is to maintain the integrity of those local and regional brands."

Bernstein added to VMail, "We are all bursting at the seams and are just elated about this new opportunity for Nationwide. This gives our entire team a tremendous avenue for growth. We are thrilled to take on the challenge and can’t think of a better partner."

Refac Optical Group is a leading provider of vision care products and services in the United States and Canada. Its main operating company, U.S. Vision, Inc. has been engaged in the retail optical business since 1967, and is the second largest independent operator of optical stores in host retailers in terms of store count and the first in terms of the number of brands.

As of August 2013, U.S. Vision has 769 full-service retail vision care stores that offer an extensive selection of designer brands and private label prescription eyewear, contact lenses, sunglasses, ready-made readers and accessories. Its locations include optical locations within JCPenney, Belk, BJ’s, Boscov’s, Sears Optical, Hudson’s Bay, Macy’s and Meijer Stores. It also operates a state-of-the-art manufacturing laboratory.