Best Buy Acquires GTCR’s GreatCall for $800M, Eyeing Aging Boomers

Best Buy is paying $800 million in cash for GreatCall, a San Diego-based healthtech company which private equity firm GTCR bought early last year.

GreatCall operates a virtual mobile telecommunications network for a customers base of more than 900,000 elderly consumers. The company also sells gadgets, such as mobile devices with large screens and big buttons, wearables that can work with those devices, and emergency alert products. The company operates call centers that help elderly customers use the GreatCall’s technology, can dispatch emergency personnel, and can connect the customer to family caregivers, among other services.

Minnesota-based Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) has had a longstanding relationship with GreatCall. The electronics retailer has for years sold GreatCall’s services and products, including its “Jitterbug” phones, with broad distribution capabilities, given its approximately 1,500 stores internationally. Best Buy’s move to acquire GreatCall suggests it was attracted to the San Diego company for the same reason GTCR was when it bought GreatCall in March 2017: the aging baby boomer population. Best Buy has been investing in the area, adding more health and wellness products to its stores, the company said in a news release.

The $800 million price tag shows Best Buy does believe there’s room for growth. GreatCall CEO David Inns said the company has annual revenue of more than $300 million and is profitable, according to a news release from Best Buy. There are about 50 million Americans over the age of 65, according to Best Buy, and the company says it expects that number to rise by 50 percent by 2038.

GreatCall was founded in 2006 and initially focused on selling its phones. It later added health and safety features. Inns, who led the company through that development and the GTCR acquisition, will continue in his current role after the Best Buy deal closes, which is expected in the third quarter of its current fiscal year. GreatCall is staying in its San Diego headquarters, Best Buy says.

Plenty of businesses and other organizations have been developing technologies for the growing number of elderly baby boomers. Aging 2.0, which supports innovation for older adults, opened a Houston branch in 2016. Madison, WI-based Tailored Care is developing software that aims to support caregivers who work with elderly patients. Meanwhile, CarePredict is a Plantation, FL-based business that sells wearable devices and artificial intelligence software to assisted living facilities for monitoring residents. (CarePredict bought the intellectual property assets of San Antonio-based WiseWear in June.)

Other related products have had their shares of ups and downs, such as Fitbit (NYSE: FIT). The company raised $700 million in an initial public offering in 2015, but its shares closed at $5.28 apiece Wednesday.

GTCR didn’t disclose any details of its 2017 acquisition of GreatCall.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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