KITS Eyecare's CEO, chairman and co-founder Roger Hardy has upped his stake in the e-commerce venture to 32.15 per cent, up from 28.89 per cent when KITS went public, in January 2021.
The move, which came in a series of transactions, is a sign of confidence in the upstart online-eyewear seller, and it is notable because founders with large stakes in their companies often try to reduce their holdings as a way to diversify assets. In November, when Aritzia Inc. (TSX:ATZ) founder Brian Hill reduced his holdings in the company to 18.7 per cent, from 20 per cent, by selling $70 million worth of shares, the company said that it was "for estate planning, investment diversification and charitable giving purposes."
Hardy, however, is already quite diversified. His Hardy Capital owns real estate, such as an 82,000-sq. ft. office building at 510 Seymour Street, at West Pender Street. Hardy told BIV last year that he believed his real-estate portfolio to be worth more than $100 million.
Hardy Capital also lists investments that include stakes in LD Vision Group Inc., Eyewa, Lentesplus, Cymax Stores Inc., Cotopaxi, Coco Republic, FIGS, Harry's, Sonder, Dooly, Nylas, Recover, Surkus, Nurse Next Door, Canalyst, Naborly, Solink, Flexitive, Merrco, Flexday, MOGO, Jive Software and Tangoe.
Hardy had dabbled in wine, with a stake in Liquidity Wines Ltd. until he and others sold the venture to uber-successful Okanagan-based wine entrepreneur Anthony von Mandl for 12.5 million in March 2020.
Hardy not only now owns 10,069,295 shares in KITS, but his stake in the company also includes 445,000 options to purchase an additional 445,000 common shares, and 1,960 restricted share rights (RSRs) to purchase an additional 1,960 common shares.
Hardy made much of his money by founding, growing and then selling Coastal Contacts to Essilor International for $430 million in March 2014. He and other family members owned about 20 per cent of the company at the time - a stake worth $86 million. Essilor then merged with Luxottica to become EssilorLuxottica, the world's largest eyewear company, while its Coastal Contacts division is now known as Clearly.
Hardy told BIV last year that the contract he signed with Essilor included a three-year non-compete clause.
“They paid me during that time to not compete,” Hardy said.
He then dabbled in projects, such as building an e-commerce shoe business, Shoes.com, which wound up going bankrupt.
After the non-compete period with EssilorLuxottica ended, Hardy invested and sat on the board of directors at Privé Revaux – an eyewear brand that sold a majority stake to Italy’s Safilo Group for $110 million in early 2020.
Hardy’s focus has largely been on KITS since he launched the venture in 2018 along with co-founders Sabrina Liak and Joseph Thompson.
The KITS press release that noted Hardy's upped stake in the company did not say when the additional shares were purchased. The company's share price has risen more than 34 per cent in the past year, but it has hit a rough patch of late, falling 10.5 per cent today, and 15.1 per cent in the past five trading days, to $3.65. With a market capitalization of $114.3 million, Hardy's shares in the company are worth more than $33 million.