Banking & Finance and Health Care

Eye care practice joins private equity-backed organization

March 1, 2017
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Grand Rapids Ophthalmology Walker office
Grand Rapids Ophthalmology operates 11 locations in West Michigan. Photo via fb.com

A private equity firm has invested in a local ophthalmology practice in a move that will support further expansion. 

Grand Rapids Ophthalmology, or GRO, will become the first eye care provider to join Great Lakes Management Services Organization, a practice MSO formed by Chicago-based Sterling Partners as part of the deal.

GRO will continue to operate as Grand Rapids Ophthalmology, and the practice's shareholders will maintain their current roles and ownership through Great Lakes MSO.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

GRO, founded in 1982, comprises 11 ophthalmologists, 18 optometrists and 180 other technicians and staff in 11 locations.

GRO offers a full suite of eye care services: optometry, retail, oculoplastics, cataract surgery, retinal subspecialties and more.

The partnership

By merging into Great Lakes MSO, Grand Rapids Ophthalmology will have the freedom to pursue growth opportunities, improve clinical care, expand career development and employment opportunities and create additional strategic partnerships with health care systems, regional employers and retailers.

“The brand and reputation we’ve worked so hard to build will not change, and now we have an exciting opportunity to further solidify our strong market position,” said GRO ophthalmologist Dr. David Barrett. “With the additional resources and expertise we now have through our partnership with Sterling, we’ll be able to continue to invest in our employees and the most advanced technologies and systems to ultimately benefit patients, not just in West Michigan but well beyond.”

While GRO has seen strong organic growth, the practice’s leadership team saw an opportunity to expand its footprint by partnering with a like-minded investor.

GRO ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Boyle said GRO found such an investor in Sterling Partners, one that would recognize GRO’s established value and accelerate expansion opportunities.

“What drew us to Sterling Partners was their management expertise, access to additional capital, a growth-focused vision to leverage the existing infrastructure in order to aggressively expand and Sterling’s long history of investing and growing health care services businesses,” Boyle said.

Steven Taslitz, chairman and co-founder of Sterling Partners, said the firm is "excited to work with Dr. Barrett, Dr. Boyle and their team to take GRO through its next phase of growth."

Consolidation

The partnership is an example of a growing trend by specialty medical practices to consolidate through private equity mergers and partnerships, according to Southfield-based Cascade Partners, which advised GRO in the process. This is the third physician practice management merger Cascade has advised in the last two years.

In the past five years, almost 400 transactions have been completed in the U.S. physician practice management sector, and there are more than 20 private equity firms actively seeking eye care practices for their portfolios, according to Cascade Partners.

“At Sterling, we look to partner with differentiated health care services companies that provide accessible and high-quality services in a complex system," Taslitz said. "The consolidating eye care market, combined with the aging U.S. population that needs eye care services equates to significant growth potential for GRO."

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