UPDATE 1-KKR to buy optical retailer National Vision

Fri Feb 7, 2014 10:26am EST

By Olivia Oran

Feb 7 (Reuters) - Private equity firm KKR & Co LP said on Friday it would acquire National Vision Inc from buyout firm Berkshire Partners LLC in a bet that consumers would increasingly seek out the budget retailer's low-price contact lenses and eyeglasses.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but a person familiar with the matter pegged the value at just north of $1 billion. The management team of National Vision is expected to remain a significant investor in the company, KKR said.

KKR was one of the private equity firms pursuing the Lawrenceville, Georgia-based company, which had hired Barclays to assist with the sale, Reuters reported in December.

National Vision, which focuses on low-cost glasses and contacts, operates more than 750 retail locations under names that include America's Best Contacts & Eyeglasses and Eyeglass World.

It also has stores inside Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Fred Meyer Inc and military bases.

Berkshire Partners took National Vision private in 2005 in a $190 million deal that was funded with $153 million in debt and included the simultaneous, $88 million acquisition of Consolidated Vision Group Inc, an optical chain that was backed by private equity firm Kelso & Company.

In 2009 National Vision acquired EyeGlass World for an undisclosed amount.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP acted as legal adviser to Berkshire Partners and National Vision. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP acted as legal adviser to KKR. Wells Fargo was also a financial adviser to National Vision.