Formerly owned by Gallaher Ltd, a subsidiary of American Brands, the business was better known by its principal UK brand of opticians Dolland & Aitchison. The company was also comprised of other optician brands including For Eyes and Eyeland in the UK, Donal McNally in Ireland, General Optica in Spain and Salmoiraghi Vigano in Italy. It controlled a 50% interest in Swiss chain Delta Optic and through Keeler manufactured and sold optical instruments worldwide from bases in the UK and USA.
Each of the opticians businesses occupied leading positions in their respective markets. The incumbent management together with other individuals from outside the company, supported by Cinven and other investors, bought the business in July 1994 with a view to pursuing a carefully planned improvement and growth strategy.
The strategy involved selling or closing unprofitable elements of its operations while increasing the sale of higher value added products. More manufacturing would be carried out in the Far East and more efficient use of staff in the UK would contribute to lowering costs. The profitable Spanish operation would be expanded. These moves would be taken against a background of a growing market in spectacles and eyewear in general.
Having successfully pursued this strategy, Cinven’s investment was realised by means of a demerger of various elements of the business in December 1998.
Multiple returned on investment: 3.9x