Essilor to Acquire Vision Source

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KINGWOOD, Texas—Vision Source announced that it has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Essilor of America, a division of Essilor International (Reuters: ESSI.PA). Essilor’s first half financial results, issued this morning European time, indicated that the company entered an agreement to acquire a majority stake in Vision Source. The deal is expected to close over the next couple of months, depending on the regulatory approvals processs. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Executives of both companies said that Vision Source is expected to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Essilor of America but that it will continue to be led and managed as an independent company, by its current leadership team, which includes the company’s founder and executive chairman, Glenn Ellisor, OD. After Essilor of America completes the acquisition, a new board will be appointed by Essilor of America in the coming months to oversee the operation.

“This partnership brings together the global leader in the lens market with the leading U.S. platform of products and services for independent eyecare professionals,” said Ellisor. “We’re certain that the expertise and resources that this new relationship offers our members will further bolster the success of their practices. We could not ask for a better organization to join forces with as we lead Vision Source into the future.”

Eric Leonard, president, Essilor of America, Inc., said, “Our partnership with Vision Source is part of our overall strategy to offer ECPs choice in new and innovative solutions, business tools, services and products they need to enhance the patient experience. We believe in the current Vision Source leadership and are committed to their strategy of supporting independent eyecare professionals in providing improved patient outcomes. We believe, working together, Essilor and Vision Source will enhance independent optometry by reducing the complexity and risk associated with managing the practice of the future.”



Added Ellisor, “We are thrilled to announce that Vision Source has taken the next step in helping independent optometrists create the practice of the future by becoming part of the Essilor family. This acquisition will serve to build upon a successful long-term relationship that Essilor has enjoyed with independent optometrists since coming to the United States decades ago. Our formal relationship commenced in 2007, and Essilor has been a strong, loyal and like-minded supporter of Vision Source members ever since. This strategic partnership brings together a global leader in vision care products with the leading U.S. network of independent eyecare professionals who treat more than 50,000 patients a day.”

Founded in 1991, Vision Source is an alliance of independent optometrists that currently has approximately 4,000 members. It ranked second among the Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers  with $2.2 billion in sales from over 3,000 locations for the calendar year of 2014.

In 2011, Dallas-based private investment firm Brazos Private Equity Partners made a significant but undisclosed investment in Vision Source. Brazos’ relationship with Vision Source will end after the acquisition by Essilor is completed, according to Jim Greenwood, Vision Source president and CEO.

Greenwood joined Vision Source as COO in 2013 and initiated a process of navigating the changing health care landscape for Vision Source and its members, forming strategic alliances with medical providers and health care networks such as Privia Quality Network, Minuteman Health, Arkansas Health Group and many more.

Of the pending acquisition, Greenwood said, “The partnership with Essilor will enable us to maintain our position as the most innovative clinicians in the market, enriching the lives of 20 million patients a year much sooner than we would have otherwise reached that goal.”

He continued, “If you go back four and a half years when Dr. Ellisor was looking for a new financial partner, he selected Brazos Equity in Dallas, a group which allowed the team to bring in new members and to build an infrastructure across all dimensions of the business to the point where we’ve never had a better 18 months of growth in our history. This next chapter makes sense in that Essilor is the clear global leader in this space, with a strong design for independent ODs to align in the U.S.”

Vision Source’s Canadian assets, which consisted of 95 franchisees, were transferred to FYidoctors in 2013 and will continue to be managed by that company headed by CEO Alan Ulsifer, OD. Ellisor said, “Vision Source Canada is not part of the transaction. We have a marketing agreement with FYidoctors. I spoke with Al Ulsifer, and he agreed that our relationship will continue.”

Executives emphasized that Vision Source members would continue to be able to work with all Vision Source vendor partners. Stated Purcell, “Our key pillar is about choice and we don’t imagine any change in that.” Ellisor added, “We’ll continue to have vendor relationships with various companies and competitors as we always have to allow our members to have choice. We don’t force our members to do anything in their practices.”

Asked what impact this acquisition will have on other alliances, Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO, senior vice president of Essilor of America, said, “This is not the first time we’ve made an acquisition and stayed partners with those we have not acquired. There are many examples of how Essilor has done this historically,” he said, using past lab acquisitions as a case in point. Purcell added, “We want to grow the market. There is significant untapped potential in, support for a group of practitioners who have supported Essilor over the years.”

Regarding any potential acquisitions of other alliances by Essilor, Purcell said, “We’re always looking for opportunities that exist out there. The ongoing strategy we’ve had is to bring innovation, partnership and choice. This partnership will create efficiencies to benefit the entire industry. This is one additional way we can grow the entire market.”

Pointing to changes in the consumer sector, Ellisor added, “Consumers, too, are changing, as everyone knows, in terms of how they engage with retail organizations, for example, we’re focused on that omnichannel experience and to create a digital experience in the office which will translate to consumers there, in their homes, and in the workplace. Essilor can help us accomplish that sooner than we can do it alone.”