Tom Lee in $450m Eye Care exit

After scrapping plans for an IDS, the Boston buyout firm has agreed to sell Eye Care Centers of America to private equity firm Golden Gate Capital and eyewear products maker Moulin International.

Thomas H. Lee Partners today announced the sale of its retail optical chain Eye Care Centers of America to Golden Gate Capital and Moulin International for $450 million (€339 million).

Golden Gate is a San Francisco private equity firm with $2.5 billion under management. Moulin is a provider of eyewear based in Hong Kong.

Earlier this year Thomas H. Lee filed to take Eye Care public as an income deposit security (IDS) – a dual debt and equity security that pays a high dividend. According to an SEC filing, the offering was to raise $350 million. Like many other private equity firms that have explored IDS offerings recently, Thomas H. Lee canceled the effort.

Thomas H. Lee bought the company in 1998 for $300 million. Eye Care’s previous owner was New York private investment firm Desai Capital Management. In 1998, Eye Care had 243 optical stores in the US and Mexico.

Today, the company, headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, has 378 stores and is the second largest such retail operation in the US.

JP Morgan has agreed to provide up to $340 million in financing for the deal.

Eye Care will continue to be led by chairman and chief executive officer David McComas.