1-800 Contacts, Inc.

Disruptive Technology Innovation

In 2016, AEA’s Middle Market Private Equity (“MMPE”) fund invested in 1-800 Contacts, Inc. (“1-800 Contacts” or “1-800”), the leading retailer of contact lenses in the U.S. The company is the largest direct-to-consumer platform and offers contacts across manufacturers in a consumer-friendly format through its website and app enabled by its leading optical telemedicine technology.

AEA MMPE identified 1-800 as a unique business model with a compelling value proposition providing unrivaled convenience, superior service and a wider selection of contact lenses at competitive prices to independent eye care professionals (“ECPs”) and broader brick-and-mortar retailers. AEA MMPE worked with the 1-800 team to launch new products and services, including the ExpressExam online prescription renewal platform and AquaSoft private label lenses. The company also invested to complete a full brand refresh, upgrade the user experience and implement more analytics-based pricing and promotional strategies. Throughout AEA MMPE’s ownership period, the team worked with 1-800 to significantly enhance digital and telemedicine capabilities, which was enabled by executing two important strategic acquisitions: (i) the acquisition of 6over6, a leading vision care technology company, positioning the business to continue to be the leader in optical telemedicine with the ability to offer remote eye exams; and (ii) the acquisition of Liingo, which expands the company’s addressable market to include eyeglasses and furthered the offering as a one-stop optical platform providing exams, contact lenses and eyeglasses. The significant growth of 1-800 would not have been possible without the strong leadership of CEO John Graham, who became CEO during AEA MMPE’s ownership, and the entire 1-800 Contacts management team.


Created Value


Strategic acquisitions completed


Private label customers acquired


Online renewal eye exams completed


Customer accounts added


Increase in customer lifetime value

Portrait of John Graham

“I appreciated the tremendous partnership we had with our AEA team.  They worked with us to dramatically upgrade the talent on our team, expand our presence in the industry and supported several key acquisitions, always with a maintained focus on building the long-term value proposition of the company.  They are smart, savvy investors and partners who engage where they can add value without adding complexity and overhead.”

John Graham
Chief Executive Officer, 1-800 Contacts, Inc.