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KKR to Acquire 1-800 Contacts from AEA Investors

The online retailer’s sales have surged during the pandemic.

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DRAPER, UT — 1-800 Contacts is set to be acquired by global investment firm KKR.

The direct-to-consumer retailer will be purchased from AEA Investors. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but Reuters reports that it is worth more than $3 billion.

“1-800 Contacts was founded 25 years ago to offer consumers a better way to buy contact lenses. Since the very beginning, we’ve kept the customer at the center of everything we do,” said John Graham, CEO of 1-800 Contacts. “It’s gratifying that KKR sees such incredible value in our brand and that they will continue to support us in doing what we do best – delivering the best vision care to consumers with the highest quality customer service.”

Felix Gernburd, KKR managing director, said, “We believe 1-800 Contacts’ singular focus on providing a consistent and high quality customer experience, fueled by industry-leading capabilities and telemedicine solutions, positions them well to continue to drive innovation in the category.”

Over the past few years, 1-800 Contacts has made significant investments in technology and expanding its offerings, the release notes. For example, it acquired vision technology startup 6over6 in late 2019 and launched new app-based offerings including ExpressExam, which enables consumers to renew contact lens prescriptions online. The company’s sister brand Liingo Eyewear also introduced Rx Reader, an app that extracts optical parameters directly from a pair of prescription glasses.

During the peak of the COVID-19 shutdown, 1-800 Contacts experienced a 100 percent year-over-year increase in new and returning customers. During that period, usage of the ExpressExam app also increased 200 percent and the Rx Reader app experienced a 700 percent increase in monthly active users. The company also invested in more than 200 new hires in its Utah and North Carolina operations.

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