National Vision, Inc. (NVI), the leading independent value retailer of eyeglasses and contact lenses, and leading global investment firm KKR today announced that a definitive agreement has been signed whereby KKR will acquire the company from Berkshire Partners, a Boston-based investment firm. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. NVI 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 over 750 low price vision centers across the United States, 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 www.aclens.com and www.discountcontactlenses.com. “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 anticipating and looking forward to a very similar sort of relationship with KKR.” “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. 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 RestoringVision.org in its work to provide readers and sunglasses for distribution by American Mission goers abroad. In addition, NVI created and manages their own charity called Frames For The World that collects new eyeglass frames from manufacturers who have overstock and distributes the frames in bulk to clinics serving the poor in the developing world so they can bring sight to more people.
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. The management team of NVI is expected to remain a significant investor in the business.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. About National Vision National Vision, Inc. (NVI) is the fourth largest optical retailer in the United States, operating over 750 retail locations in 43 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. National Vision employs over 7,000 people and has several retail divisions including America's Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, Eyeglass World, Vision Centers inside select Wal-Mart, Vista Optical inside Fred Meyer and Optical Centers on select military bases. About KKR 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 December 31, 2013. With offices around the world, KKR manages assets through a variety of investment funds and accounts covering multiple asset classes. KKR seeks to create value by bringing operational expertise to its portfolio companies and through active oversight and monitoring of its investments. KKR complements its investment expertise and strengthens interactions with fund investors through its client relationships and capital markets platform. KKR & Co. L.P. is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: KKR) and “KKR”, as used in this release, includes its subsidiaries, their managed investment funds and accounts, and/or their affiliated investment vehicles, as appropriate. For additional information, please visit KKR’s website at www.kkr.com. About Berkshire Partners Berkshire Partners, the Boston-based investment firm, has invested in over 100 middle market companies since 1986 through eight private equity funds with aggregate capital commitments of $11 billion. Berkshire has developed specific industry experience in several areas including consumer products and retail, business services, industrial manufacturing, transportation and communications. Berkshire has a strong history of partnering with management teams to grow the companies in which it invests with the goal of consistently achieving superior investment returns. The firm is currently investing from Berkshire Fund VIII, a $4.5 billion fund raised in 2011. Berkshire seeks to invest $50 million to $500 million of equity capital in each portfolio company. For additional information, visit www.berkshirepartners.com.