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Eyeglass maker transitions to new ownership

By: Frank Antosiewicz

April 3, 2014

After 24 years as a joint venture, Transitions Optical Inc. is gaining new leadership and will operate solely as a subsidiary of Essilor International SA.

Transitions Optical, known for its photochromic lenses, opened in 1990 as a joint venture headed by PPG Industries Inc., of Pittsburgh and Essilor. PPG had held a 51 percent stake, while Essilor owned 49 percent.

The two owners completed a deal April 1 originally proposed in July 2013. Essilor is purchasing the remaining 51 percent of Transitions as well as PPG’s Intercast sun lens business. PPG said that the deal reflects an enterprise value of $3.4 billion. It received $1.73 billion in cash, subject to certain post-closing and adjustment and transaction costs.

In 2013, the Transition joint venture and sun lens business had combined net sales of $874 million.

Paddy McDermott is the new president of Transition Optical. He joined the Pinellas Park, Fla., company in 1993 and has held various key positions. He was responsible for the startup of Transition’s Ireland factory and later directed its European operations.

McDermott will report to Bertrand Roy, senior vice president, strategic partnerships, at Essilor. He has been with Essilor for nearly 27 years and was instrumental in the foundation of the Transitions venture.

The company also said that Richard Elias, CEO and senior vice president, optical and specialty materials has retired.  David Cola, former president of Transitions, will stay with PPG and was promoted to vice president of PPG’s packaging coating business.

Essilor, in a July 2013 presentation, said that the acquisition was good fit and that the global market was growing 3-4 percent. It also estimated that 4.2 billion people needed vision correction and that 2.5 billion of those have not yet gained the proper help.

Among the benefits of full ownership, it pointed out that it could drive faster growth in the photochromic category, especially in Europe, Asia and Latin America. It also noted that having worked together all these years, they have tremendous synergies. The sun lens acquisition also offers more opportunities for both Essilor and Transitions.

Essilor International is a publicly traded company in Paris. It develops and produces optical lens and has more than 10,000 employees in North America.

PPG said that the sale will provide more assets for its vision of being a world leader in coating and specialty materials.