National Vision to be Acquired by KKR


LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga.– National Vision, Inc. (NVI), the leading independent value retailer of eyeglasses and contact lenses, and leading global investment firm KKR (NYSE: KKR) today announced that a definitive agreement has been signed whereby KKR will acquire the company from Berkshire Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

NVI, the fourth largest optical retailer in the U.S., operating over 750 retail locations in 43 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, is the fastest growing independent optical retailer and is one of the few retailers that is focused exclusively on the value segment of the industry. The company operates vision centers across the country, including America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses and Eyeglass World free-standing concepts and vision centers inside Walmart, Fred Meyer and on U.S. Military bases. NVI also sells its products direct to consumers through 25 consumer-facing websites, including and

“We have had an absolutely marvelous eight-year relationship with Berkshire Partners and are so appreciative of all they have done to support our growth and help get us to where we are today,” said Reade Fahs, CEO of NVI. “The NVI team is

Reade Fahs, CEO, National Vision

anticipating and looking forward to a very similar sort of relationship with KKR.” Fahs added, to VMail, “We have come a long way. Berkshire Partners came into our company in 2005, at the same time acquiring America’s Best and we have been able to expand our business in many important ways.”

Fahs, along with Bruce Steffey, president, Peter Clarkson, head of ACLens/digital and others on the NVI executive management team are planning to stay with the company under the new arrangement with KKR. This morning’s statement also said that the management team of NVI is expected to remain a significant investor in the business.

“NVI has a bright future ahead of it, and we are excited to partner with this proven management team on its next chapter of growth. Through its broad store base and leading e-commerce platform, the company is poised to benefit from the growth in this highly attractive value segment of the optical industry. As NVI continues to grow, we also look forward to supporting its important social mission,” Nate Taylor, Member of KKR, said.

Today, NVI employes over 7,000 employees. The company also operates a lab network with over 600 employees at two domestic locations in St. Cloud, Minn., and Lawrenceville, Ga., and two international locations in China and Mexico. NVI is dedicated to “serving the underserved” by providing eye health care and eyeglasses to those who otherwise would not have access to affordable vision improvement. NVI has been a strategic partner of VisionSpring, supporting its work to create sustainable business models to serve low-income individuals in El Salvador, India and Bangladesh. NVI also supports in its work to provide readers and sunglasses for distribution by American mission-goers abroad.

KKR is making the investment from its North American XI private equity fund. The acquisition, which is expected to close by the end of the first quarter, is subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

Founded in 1976 and led by Henry Kravis and George Roberts, KKR is a leading global investment firm with $94.3 billion in assets under management as of Dec. 31, 2013. With offices around the world, KKR manages assets through a variety of investment funds and accounts covering multiple asset classes. KKR & Co. L.P. is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Barclays acted as lead financial advisor to NVI, with Wells Fargo as co-advisor. Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP acted as legal advisor to Berkshire Partners and NVI. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP acted as legal advisor to KKR.