BUSINESS: Private Equity Magruder Eye Institute and Chicago Pacific Founders Launch Ascend Vision Partners, CEO Named to Lead the New Organization By Staff Thursday, August 18, 2022 12:21 AM ORLANDO and CHICAGO—Chicago Pacific Founders (CPF), an investment adviser that manages private equity funds, said that it—along with Magruder Eye Institute (MEI) of central Florida and Robson Eye Institute (REI) of the greater Tampa Bay, Fla., area—has recently formed Ascend Vision Partners (AVP). The result of the practices’ partnership with Chicago Pacific is that AVP becomes the administrative services provider to both of the Florida eyecare groups and Lakeside Surgery Center (which is affiliated with Magruder Eye Institute), the announcement noted.The terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the announcement noted that the Magruder Eye and Robson Eye physicians maintain “a significant ownership interest in AVP with Chicago Pacific.” (Note that Sight Growth Partners, a provider of administrative services to ophthalmology practices and ambulatory surgery centers throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, is a separate portfolio company of Chicago Pacific Founders. Ascend will focus on affiliations in the Southeastern region and remain separate and non-competitive with Sight Growth Partners, which remains focused in the Northeast, a Chicago Pacific spokesman told VMAIL. Sight Growth Partners has approximately 120 providers across 70 locations.) Founded in 1973, Magruder Eye Institute is a premier comprehensive ophthalmology provider in Central Florida with a long-standing reputation for providing clinically excellent care to a diverse collection of patients within its communities. It has six locations. MEI recently launched Robson Eye Institute to expand its reach to patients in the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater area of Florida, bringing its total combined clinical/surgical locations and providers to eight and 12, respectively. Robson has two locations, in Clearwater and Palm Harbor. The practices' partners, including John Beneke, MD, Donald Centner, MD, Michael Graham, MD, John Lehr, MD, and Michael Pohlod, MD, will retain ownership through AVP, enabling the practices to remain physician-owned and continuing to provide care through their patient-centric model. "I am thrilled to be a founder of AVP and welcome CPF as our new partner," Dr. Lehr said in the announcement. "My partners and I are ecstatic about CPF's unique approach with founders and clinicians, and their track record of driving rapid growth and value creation." Vance Vanier, MD, a co-founder and managing partner of investment group Chicago Pacific and chairman of AVP, said, “Our firm and team have deep experience in ophthalmology, including discussions with over 350 practices dating back to the start of this recent wave of consolidation. As a result, we've had the privilege of being selective in our outbound search and feel quite fortunate to partner with such a dynamic group of clinical leaders within an established practice.” Mary Tolan, a founder and managing partner of Chicago Pacific and board member of the new AVP services organization, added, “This is a clear example of leaders working with leaders to solidify a legacy of clinical quality, while expanding reach through affiliations with additional like-minded ophthalmologists, referral sources and payers across the Southeastern region.” As part of establishing AVP and laying the foundation for rapid, risk-adjusted growth, the practices' shareholders and Chicago Pacific recruited Justin Simoncini to join as AVP's chief executive officer. Simoncini brings almost 20 years of health care experience, and he most recently served as chief strategy officer of Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery, a leading dermatology practice management company with over 150 locations and over 300 providers. Prior to his time with Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery, Simoncini served as a global vice president with Cardinal Health. “The opportunity to partner with such a talented group of clinicians and leading practices is not one that comes along very often,” Simoncini said. “I'm excited to help the practices' shareholders create the leading ophthalmology practice management platform by combining their track record of clinical excellence while leveraging CPF's expertise in ophthalmology, demonstrated successes in other provider-based partnerships, and deep value-based care relationships." Patients and referring providers should expect no changes to the practices' providers and patient-centric care model, the announcement noted. Going forward, the practices expect to add providers across all sub-specialties and expand the service area across Florida and the broader Southeastern region. The practices' physicians will continue in their current roles with the organization, while maintaining a significant ownership interest in AVP with Chicago Pacific.