Harvest Partners and Varsity Healthcare Partners Recapitalize EyeCare Services Partners

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NEW YORK—Harvest Partners, LP a New York-based private equity firm, and Varsity Healthcare Partners, a healthcare-focused private equity firm, announced earlier today that they have completed a recapitalization of EyeCare Services Partners Holdings (ESP) LLC. Harvest has acquired Varsity’s majority ownership interest in the company which is consolidating ophthalmologic and optometric practices and ambulatory surgery centers that are locally dominant and clinically differentiated, according to the group’s website.

The company’s management team, led by CEO Michael Fricke and other doctor shareholders, will continue to lead ESP, and will retain a significant stake in the company. Additional terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Based in Dallas, Texas, ESP is the nation’s largest vertically integrated ophthalmologic services company. ESP’s affiliated ophthalmologists and optometrists serve communities in California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, and Maryland. Since its founding in May 2014, ESP has affiliated with over 20 practices.

Fricke said, “ESP has had an outstanding partnership with the Varsity team, resulting in tremendous growth in our managerial organization and clinical footprint. I am excited now to work with Harvest as we look to attract the best physicians and continue to expand our network.”

David Alpern, partner at Varsity, added, “Varsity has had a strong working relationship with ESP’s executive and clinical leadership over the past three years, beginning with the initial recapitalization of the Katzen Eye Group and having scaled now to 46 practice locations and seven ambulatory surgery centers across five states. We are deeply grateful to ESP’s management and clinical partners, who are truly responsible for the success of this investment.”

VMail reported on the initial deal with Katzen in 2014.

In addition to Katzen, ESP’s other partnerships include Dulaney Eye Institute, Delaware Eye Center, Inland Eye Specialists, Omni Eye Specialists, Spivack Vision Center, Colorado Eye Center, Milauskas Eye Institute, Chicagoland Retinal Consultants, Hauser-Ross Eye Institute and other ambulatory surgical care centers.

“Given the company’s success, Michael Fricke and Varsity could have elected to partner with many private equity firms,” noted Jay Wilkins, senior managing director at Harvest Partners. “We are both delighted and honored that they chose Harvest for ESP’s next chapter of growth. With seven previous multi-site acquisitions in four years, Harvest is quite experienced in platform growth strategy, and we look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with Michael and his team to support the company’s consolidation goals.”

Paige Daly, managing director at Harvest Partners, added, “ESP is exactly what we look for in a partner company. It is an undisputed leader in a burgeoning business model where there are few sizeable players. There is a clear path for growth as an aging population will require more and better services in eye and vision care.”

Founded in 1981, Harvest Partners is a leading New York-based private equity investment firm pursuing management buyouts and recapitalizations of middle market companies in North America. Harvest focuses on acquiring profitable companies in the healthcare services, business services and consumer, industrial and energy services, and manufacturing and distribution sectors. For 35 years, through seven funds with aggregate capital commitments of over $5.0 billion, the firm has invested in over 50 companies.

Jefferies LLC acted as exclusive financial advisor to Varsity Healthcare Partners and Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP provided legal counsel.