Dec 23, 2021 - Health

Scoop: THL buys into Smile Doctors at $2.4 billion valuation

Illustration of a model of a mouth with golden braces.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Thomas H. Lee Partners is joining Linden Capital Partners as an equal investor in orthodontics chain Smile Doctors, at a $2.4 billion valuation, sources tell Axios.

Look ahead: Linden next year plans to run a secondaries process that would move Smile Brands into a continuation fund, one of the sources said, providing it with more time and capital to manage, and ride, Smile Doctors' growth.

  • Almost four years into its investment, Linden hired William Blair this summer to explore an outright sale of Smile Doctors, before pivoting to a 50-50 joint ownership transaction. That process, and ultimately the deal with THL, should help set the valuation for the secondaries transaction.
  • Through a single-asset continuation fund, limited partners in older funds that own a stake in an asset are typically able to liquidate and/or reinvest in the continuation pool. New investors, or secondary buyers, also enter the mix through the process.
  • One source says an adviser has not been chosen for the single-asset process, but secondary buyers have already expressed significant interest.

By the numbers: The partial sale was valued off of about $160 million to $165 million of EBITDA, implying a mid-teens multiple, sources say.

  • Georgetown, Texas-based Smile Doctors has grown its bottom line by more than 4x since Linden invested in 2017, sources say.

The bottom line: Secondary deals are an increasingly popular way for investors to hold onto assets longer, and Smile Doctors will add to the flurry of activity.

Linden and THL declined to comment.

Update: This report has been updated to clarify that only Linden will be involved in the upcoming secondaries process.

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