Another Big Utah Biz Deal! 1-800 Contacts, To Sell for $3 B, 25 Yrs After Starting in BYU Dorm Room

Updated: Oct 13




Another big Utah business deal is happening! 1-800 Contacts, the nation’s largest retailer of contact lenses is set to be sold to the global investment firm KKR & Co for over $3 billion dollars. The Orem, Utah-based company was started in a dorm room at Brigham Young University 25 years ago by student Jonathan C. Coon and optometrist John F. Nichols. 1-800 Contacts was one of the first direct to consumer brands for contact lenses, according to The Utah Enterprise Business Journal.



The company has expanded its offerings, over the years, including selling glasses and offering eye examinations online as well as contact lenses. In recent months (during Covid-19) the company continued to grow in sales and even hired 200 new employees in its Utah and North Carolina operations.


"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.



Private equity firm KKR & Co. agreed to buy contact lens retailer 1-800 Contacts from AEA Investors. AEA Investors acquired 1-800 Contacts in 2016 from Thomas H. Lee Partners, according to a story on Bloomberg.com



“They spent a lot of time investing in telemedicine solutions,” Felix Gernburd, a managing director at KKR, said in an interview. “When shelter-in-place orders were restricting movement, 1-800 Contacts was one of the few places you could go to get your contacts.”


The number of people using the company’s two online eye-exam apps at least tripled at the peak of the shutdown, according to the Bloomberg article. The company supports the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act which gives people certain rights, including the right to shop around when buying contact lenses.

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We love a good “dorm room startup” story. And Yay! For another successful Utah company being sold for billions.

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