Bausch and Lomb's history in Rochester

Posted at: 07/25/2013 6:05 PM
Updated at: 07/26/2013 10:19 AM
By: Janet Lomax

John Jacob Bausch decided in 1853 to open a business that sold optical goods in Rochester. He needed a little financial help, got a $60 loan from Henry Lomb, and that's when their partnership began.   

By 1914, the company was manufacturing the first optical glass in the U.S. In 1936, Bausch and Lomb came up with Ray Ban sunglasses for military pilots.   

Bausch and Lomb hit a milestone in 1966 when sales topped $100 million for the first time. In 1971, the government gave the company the okay to start marketing soft contact lenses.

Four years later, the company headquarters moved to North Goodman Street from St. Paul. When the company stopped making glasses and frames in 1981, it was forced to cut jobs. In 1982, there were 4,300 people employed locally.

The company decided to go in a new direction in 1986. It introduced ReNu, a contact lens solution. The number of people working here: 3,600. There were 12,000 employed worldwide.

The city welcomed a new addition to the Rochester skyline when B&L opened it's new $50 million headquarters downtown in 1995, but just two years later, the company announces it's cutting 3,100 local workers.

The next year B&L sells its popular Ray Ban business to an Italian company for more than $600 million. In 2006, the company issues a voluntary recall of ReNu with MoistureLoc Contact Lens Solution. The solution is taken off store shelves after hundreds of consumers complained of serious eye infections. It prompted a government investigation and the recall put a drain on company profits.

The very next year, in 2007, B&L announces it will merge with private equity firm, Warburg Pincus LLC for $4.5 billion.

Three years after that worldwide recall of its contact lens cleaner, the company agrees to pay out nearly $250 million dollars, settling close to 600 lawsuits brought by people who claimed eye infections. Sixty people needed corneal transplants and seven people had to have an eye removed. The company's finances continued to be drained.

In May 2013, Valeant announces a plan to buy Bausch and Lomb for $8.7 billion.