Biz Buzz: Dioptics parent company to be bought

A French eyewear company, Essilor International, has agreed to purchase local Dioptics Medical Products’ parent company, FGX International Holdings, in a cash deal of $565 million.

FGX, which includes eyewear brands Foster Grant and Magnivision, purchased San Luis Obispo’s Dioptics in 2008 for $35 million.

Dioptics, which makes sunglasses and optical accessories, was founded in 1979 by Diana Langley. It has been located in San Luis Obispo since 1989.

In October, FGX said it was shutting down Dioptics’ distribution center and would lay off 45 of its 65 local employees at the end of March.

Only marketing and sales people would remain in the county, according to the company’s news release.

“We regret the need to reduce employment,” said Alec Taylor, FGX International Holdings’ chief executive, at the time. “We understand the disruptions that layoffs cause in people’s lives and in the community.”

Dioptics has not made an official statement about what will happen to the estimated 20 remaining employees since the sale to Essilor. Lisa Golding, who works in document control with the company, told The Tribune on Thursday that she believed “nothing is really changing.”

She believed part of the building would be rented out, but Dioptics would still take up part of the building.

Live Eyewear, a San Luis Obispo eyewear manufacturer with about 30 employees, is being routinely approached by Dioptics employees leaving the company, according to Live Eyewear spokeswoman, Michelle McIntire.

The company shared office and warehouse space with Dioptics until it moved into a new location on Capitolio and Broad streets in San Luis Obispo at the end of December 2008.

In 2005, Dioptics built one of the largest commercial buildings in San Luis Obispo, an 116,500 square-foot manufacturing and distribution center at 125 Venture Lane, with an assessed value of about $12.8 million, according to the county tax assessor.

A partnership that includes Avila Beach’s Janice Langley and Richard Niner called Vachell Lane Properties LLC — not FGX — owns the building, so the building’s ownership has not changed with the new deal.

Janice Langley is the sister of Dioptics founder Diana Langley and the company’s former chief financial officer. Niner, along with partner Ronald Strackbein, bought Dioptics from Diana Langley in 1996 and then sold the business to FGX in 2008.

It is not known how much longer FGX has a lease on the building. Calls were not returned by Janice Langley, who is now executive vice president of Niner’s local wine company, Niner Wine Estates.

A San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce e-newsletter reported that AeroMech Engineering, a local company that manufactures drones, might take over all or some of the building, which includes two floors of offices and a large warehouse.

AeroMech president Thomas Akers told The Tribune he would not confirm nor deny the report. Akers’ company was bought by Alabama-based, Chandler/May Inc. in September 2008.

Headquartered in Smithfield, Rhode Island, FGX International reported a 2008 revenue of $256 million, generated mainly in the U.S. and Canada and had about 375 full-time employees.

— Melanie Cleveland

Tucker is named Realtor of the Year

The Pismo Coast Association of Realtors recently named Mona Tucker of South County Realty at Cypress Ridge as Realtor of the Year for 2009.

She was chosen from more than 775 licensed real estate professionals in the Five Cities area and is the first member of the association to receive the award twice.

During her nearly 31-year career, Tucker has held several executive positions with the association and its charitable foundation. She also volunteers with Womenade, a local women’s group that helps people in need.

Tucker obtained her real estate license in 1978, and has been a broker since 1993.

— Julia Hickey

The Estero Inn, an eight-room upscale boutique hotel, is now open on the waterfront in Morro Bay.

Each of the eight rooms are suites with spacious floor plans and sitting areas. The rooms feature panoramic views, and the ocean is below the deck of most of them.

— AnnMarie Cornejo