RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.—VSP Global has announced the appointment of Steve Baker, president of Eyefinity, to lead the newly-established VSP Ventures. “Steve’s leadership of Eyefinity over the years has enabled him to build extensive relationships in the industry and provided a unique perspective in working across a variety of practice models,” said Michael Guyette, president and CEO of VSP Global. “We’re excited to see Steve apply his expertise and passion to VSP Ventures, a care-focused and doctor-governed alternative to private equity consolidation.”

As VMAIL reported last week, VSP launched a new retail strategy and as part of that, VSP Ventures is being set up "to underscore a broader company commitment to provide a variety of options for doctors of optometry at every career stage and in every kind of practice setting—from privately owned, to dispensary managed, to VSP-owned and operated," the company said, adding that newly formed business unit will facilitate practice transitions for doctors looking to retire or evolve to a different model.

“A care-focused approach means ensuring a doctor has the tools, the latitude and the choice to provide the best type of care in a practice setting that works best for them,” said Baker. “VSP Ventures is focused on the long-term success of the practice by offering a range of customized transition models so doctors can continue to provide full-scope, personalized care to their patients.”

In response to a question from VMAIL about whether VSP would be funding the initiative through VSP Global or partnering with other financial groups or institutions, a VSP spokesperson said that "practice transitions and acquisitions will be funded through VSP Global. As of today, there are no plans to partner with private equity firms or financial institutions."

Through the spokesperson, the company also said it could not disclose specific financial figures or information about how much VSP might be prepared to set aside for the VSP Ventures program. "Any dollars used to fund VSP Ventures’ activities underscores a broader company commitment to supporting optometry by creating opportunities for VSP network doctors in every career stage," he noted.

The company's announcement today said, "Transactions and timelines could vary based on individual practice needs. While specific acquisition models will be defined in the coming months, cash payouts won’t be contingent on future exit events. This will allow for less risky and mutually beneficial transitions designed to preserve the legacy of patient care for each practice."

“With 88 million members and growing, VSP brings an unparalleled patient base to bear in this changing landscape,” said Baker. “In addition, the services that VSP Ventures will offer in the form of billing and compliance, financial and human resource management, marketing, merchandising, and staff training shows that we are committed to the long-haul when it comes to investing in optometry.”

Baker and VSP Ventures will report directly to Guyette, while leadership of Eyefinity will transition to Earnie Franklin, VSP Global's chief technology officer, who joined the organization last fall.

“As the market continues to shift and private equity consolidation becomes an option for transitioning practices, we will always lean in the direction of the doctor,” said Gordon Jennings, OD, VSP Global board chairman. “Doctors have been asking VSP for an alternative to current market offerings and VSP Ventures is part of a continuum of options that VSP Global has created to support network doctors in every career stage.”