On August 18, Vision Service Plan (VSP), the nations largest eye care benefits provider, acquired Marchon Eyewear in a $735 million transaction. The combined revenues create a $3.3 billion company. Further, Marchon already has a global presence, which will enable VSP to expand internationally.

Through its network of more than 25,000 private practice eye doctors, VSP delivers eye-care benefits to 55 million members in the United States and Canada.

Marchon manufactures and sells branded and proprietary eyewear and sunwear for internationally-recognized brands, including Calvin Klein, Coach, Disney, Fendi, Jil Sander, Nike and Oscar de la Renta.

Under the agreement:

Marchon becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of VSP. Al Berg, Marchons CEO, and Larry Roth, executive vice president of Marchon, will continue in their existing roles.

Altair Eyewear, the VSP-owned eyewear company, becomes a division of Marchon. Weve had discussions with all of our brands about this deal, and we dont envision any changes at all, says Mr. Berg. Marchon will also continue to manufacture its own eyewear collections, Airlock and Flexon.

As of September 1, Marchon and Altair began participating in VSPs Partnership Plus program, which offers $5 for each Altair or Marchon frame dispensed by a VSP doctor to a VSP subscriber. This applies to all frames in the Marchon portfolio; it is a reimbursement from the insurance side, says Mr. Berg. The program will last through February 2009.

OfficeMate Software Solutions, Marchons practice management and electronic medical records software, will be merged with VSPs Eyefinity, a Web-based business management partner for private optometric practices.  

The synergy between OfficeMate Software Solutions and Eyefinity was an important consideration in the acquisition, and helps fulfill our vision of a fully-integrated eye-care delivery platform that benefits eye-care professionals, patients, clients and industry partners, says Rob Lynch, VSPs president and CEO.

Our existing customers and all eye-care professionals can expect to see a broad range of new technologies, enhanced support services and expanded products, adds Jim McGrann, president of the new practice solutions business.

VSP will also acquire Marchons 50% ownership in Eye Designs, which specializes in custom ophthalmic interiors, furniture and merchandizing systems.

Several O.D.s have expressed concerns about the possible ramifications of the merger.

One optometrist who currently uses OfficeMate, but is not affiliated with VSP, is now concerned about having to share medical information with VSP or become a VSP doctor. All patient information that is entered into OfficeMate software will remain entirely confidential, says VSP spokesman Sean Cooley. Also, current OfficeMate clients will not have to become affiliated with VSP to continue using OfficeMate or vice versa. Our goal through this merger is to provide everyone with as many choices as possible.

Gil Weber, a practice management and managed care consultant in Viera, Fla. questions how VSPs plans to expand internationally will benefit individual optometrists. If VSP takes funds and uses them for international operations, are the profits from those operations going to come back to benefit O.D.s, or is it more reasonable to expect that the funds will be used to finance other individual operations? he asks. How does that help optometrists?

Mr. Lynch argues otherwise. The partnership allows us to compete more effectively in the global marketplace, and enhance our premier supply network, he writes in the companys online blog. Improved turnaround times, quality, service and savings will benefit eye-care professionals, VSP members and our customers.

Vol. No: 145:09Issue: 9/15/2008