Riata Capital Acquires Three Regional Eyecare Groups and Forms Acuity Eyecare Holdings

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DALLAS—Riata Capital Group, a private equity investment firm based here, today announced the formation of Acuity Eyecare Holdings and the simultaneous acquisition of three regional eyecare groups: Crown Vision Center of St. Louis, Eyetique of Pittsburgh and International Eyecare Center of Quincy, Ill. The financial terms of the transactions were not disclosed.

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 was ranked by Vision Monday as the 26th largest eyecare group in the U.S. market, and Eyetique ranked 30th. International Eyecare Center, serves rural communities in Missouri, Illinois and Iowa, according to the announcement.

Acuity is the second “platform investment” in eyecare by some of the Riata principals, who from 2011 to 2015 organized and led the acquisition of the Vision Source network. Vision Source grew from 2,300 to more than 3,150 locations under their leadership,” the announcement noted. Essilor acquired Vision Source in late 2015, which generated “strong returns for its investors.”

The new Acuity management team includes chief executive officer Matt Matthews, who was formerly chief executive of Crown Vision; Doug Shepard, the former chief financial officer of Eye Care Centers of America, will hold the same title with Acuity; George Gebhardt, the former chief marketing officer of Visionworks, will hold that title with the new entity, and Bret Davis will be 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. Additionally, Acuity 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,” according to the announcement.

"We are excited to build upon our strong network of relationships, experience, and track record in the eyecare industry to create Acuity Eyecare,” Jeff Fronterhouse, a co-managing Partner of Riata, 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 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 added.

Matthews, the new firm’s chief executive, said the leadership team is “excited to be a part of the Acuity platform, which is well positioned for success.”

He added, “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. We look forward to the exciting growth opportunities ahead for Acuity.”

Glenn Askew, a Riata partner, added: “Acuity is well-positioned for growth, and we will look to further expand the company’s footprint in the Midwest and other regions organically and through the acquisition of additional market-leading eyecare groups and independent optometrists in attractive markets.”

Founded in 1961, Crown Vision Center operates 28 full-service eyecare centers and owns a full-service digital lab, which surfaces, finishes and AR coats lenses for Crown customers and third parties. Crown also provides integrated medical eyecare services, including LASIK, and the full range of ophthalmology services and surgery.

Eyetique, founded in 1979 by Norman Childs, operates 21 eyecare centers under the brands Eyetique, 3 Guys Optical Center, Norman Childs Eyewear and Chromos Eyewear. The Eyetique brand is a long-established, high-end eyecare group selling premium third-party brands and its own Norman Childs Eyewear Collection, according to the announcement.

Founded by Dr. Jack McDougall in 1981, International Eyecare Center (IEC) has grown from a single location in Quincy, Ill., to 12 locations serving Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. IEC also provides integrated medical eyecare services, and the full range of ophthalmology services and surgery.

In connection with the transaction, HPC Puckett & Co. provided financial advice to Crown Vision Center, Eyetique and International Eyecare Center.

Over the course of their careers, the principals of Riata have sponsored over 55 platform investments and 75 add-on acquisitions representing over $4 billion in transaction value.