UniQuest, a UK-based student engagement, conversion, and retention service, has been sold to the Keystone Education Group. Fusion Corporate Partners acted as corporate advisor to Uniquest. The Fusion team was led by Paul Slight, Director at Fusion. The terms of the deals were not disclosed.
Founded in 2013, UniQuest is led by co-founder & Chair Natalie Letcher and co-founder and CEO Rachel Fletcher, who will continue to oversee daily operations alongside Keystone’s executive leadership team.
“With so much noise in the higher education sector for our university colleagues to deal with, not to mention growing student demand and increased student expectations, we provide confidence to our partners in what they’re doing despite all this change. We bring our focused and deep expertise in student engagement to Keystone. Combined with their impressive global footprint and student reach, together we will be able to help more universities around the world reach their student recruitment goals, delivering unparalleled student support,” said Rachel Fletcher, CEO of UniQuest.
“The combination of our business with Keystone will help accelerate our ability to innovate and adapt to changing market conditions. Together, we are even more well-positioned to help institutions remain competitive by enabling them to provide best-in-class, flexible support to prospective and current students,” Fletcher said.
“Combining UniQuest’s operations with Keystone’s recruitment services will enable us to offer extremely robust student recruitment, enrollment, and retention services to our 5 500 customer base, across our key geographic markets, including the US, the UK, and continental Europe,” said Erik Harrell, Keystone’s CEO.
“With the acquisition of UniQuest, we will be able to help our customers face their enrollment challenges head-on and gain an edge over their competition with the help of our end-to-end global student recruitment, enrollment, and retention services,” Harrell said.
“We are committed to serving as a strategic partner for our customers, acting more as an extension of their own recruitment and admissions teams than the traditional agency or third-party vendor models. For students, our extensive counseling services will ensure their journey to the classroom is as painless and informed as possible, helping them every step along the way.”
“This is a game-changer in the student counseling and recruitment space, presenting a unique opportunity for Keystone to disrupt and innovate the existing traditional counseling and agency model that has prevailed for years,” he said.
“We will also be able to harness our combined data and insights from over millions of students every year to provide enhanced predictive modeling and forecasting to our customer base, making improvements along the entire recruitment value chain.”
The deal comes at a time when institutions are facing growing enrollment challenges, from the impact of falling US domestic enrollments on US universities to the impact of Brexit on EU student applications to UK universities, all amidst a backdrop of ever-increasing global competition for student enrollments.
The deal is the latest acquisition amid a flurry of organizational growth for the Keystone Education Group in 2021, and follows Keystone’s recent merger with EMG and acquisitions of FindAUniversity, College Scholarships USA (CSUSA), and AGM Education.
Hobsons’ Naviance and Intersect businesses are being sold to US-based PowerSchool, a provider of K-12 education technology solutions, for approximately US$320m, and are expected to be part of PowerSchool’s unified platform.
Hobsons’ Starfish business, after an internal restructuring where it will be spun-out from the rest of Hobsons, is being sold to EAB, a US-based education company, for approximately US$90m.
In FY 2020, Hobsons generated £6m adjusted operating profit from revenues of £85m.
Paul Zwillenberg, DMGT CEO, commented: “These two transactions mark another major milestone in DMGT’s transformation and are a clear demonstration of the benefits of our strategy. Hobsons was restructured in 2017 to focus on high-growth opportunities in Student Success. The combination of operational execution and organic investment drove a significant increase in capital value.
Consistent with our strategy, the divestitures will increase the focus of the DMGT portfolio, resulting in the Group operating in four sectors, compared to ten in 2016. The proceeds will strengthen DMGT’s existing net cash position, further enhancing DMGT’s significant financial flexibility.”
UK, London & USA, & USA, Folsom, CA & USA, Washington, DC
Future plc has acquired SmartBrief Inc., a US-based digital media publisher of targeted business news and information for USD 45 million. The initial amount will include a cash consideration of USD 32.2 million funded from the Group’s existing debt facilities, with a further USD 12.8 million to be satisfied through the issue to the vendors of 1,027,492 new ordinary shares. The agreement also includes a deferred consideration based on certain financial targets achieved over the year ending 31 July 2020, which is subject to a cap of USD 20 million.
Leveraging proprietary technology and editorial expertise, SmartBrief delivers relevant industry news in partnership with trade associations, professional societies and corporations. SmartBrief owns a database of over 5.8 million subscribers made up of senior executives, thought leaders and industry professionals.
Founded in 1999 and based in Washington DC, SmartBrief creates and distributes more than 250 digital newsletters, allowing advertisers to target and engage with decision-makers and influencers across multiple sectors including food and travel, business, education, finance, health care, retail, tech, marketing and advertising. During 2018 Future extended its successful consumer strategy into B2B through the acquisition of NewBay Media in the US, which enabled Future to access the B2B market with several market-leading titles.
Zillah Byng-Thorne, CEO of Future, said, “The acquisition of SmartBrief will substantially boost our presence and market position in the B2B sector and enhance our technology capabilities.”
“SmartBrief is a leading, respected provider of sector-focused newsletters and daily email briefings covering a range of key verticals. The addition of SmartBrief’s must-read information products to our portfolio will further extend the reach of our B2B operations. The acquisition will be earnings enhancing, and we have identified several exciting opportunities to leverage SmartBrief’s proprietary technology in both our B2C and B2B business.”
Education business Pearson has agreed to sell its US K12 courseware business to alternative asset investment management company Nexus Capital Management LP for $250 million, made up of an initial cash payment of $25 million plus an unconditional vendor note for $225 million expected to be repaid in three to seven years. Following the repayment of the vendor note, Pearson is entitled to 20% of all future cash flows to equity holders and 20% of net proceeds in the event the business is sold.
Pearson’s US K12 courseware business provides textbooks and instructional resources to help teachers and students at every stage of K12 learning in the United States. It employs approximately 1,330 people. It had gross assets of £648 million and net assets of £75 million as at 31 December 2018 and generated around £364 million of revenue and approximately £20 million of adjusted and statutory operating profit in 2018. The transaction is expected to complete at the end of the first quarter of 2019.
John Fallon, Pearson’s chief executive, said:
“School publishing in America has been an important part of Pearson for many years, and what it does matters to teachers and students across the country. We’re pleased to have found new owners who are committed to its future, and we wish it every success. The sale frees us up to focus on the digital first strategy that will drive our future growth. Through our assessment, virtual school, advanced placement and career and technical education programmes, we will still serve schools across America and we will now be better placed to focus on the areas in which we can best help their students to be successful in their studies and future careers.”
The Bertram Group has acquired Education Umbrella, a leading supplier of books and digital learning resources, in its first strategic bolt-on acquisition under its new ownership. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Bristol-based Umbrella Education provides print and digital learning resources to schools around the world. Founded in 2011, the company has launched Education Umbrella Press, a digital publishing platform and technologies including TECbook, an online eBook system which converts books from top educational publishers into digital format and TECvideo, a video-based learning tool.
Chief financial officer of Bertram Group Nicholas Goodwin said: “We are delighted to announce Bertram Group’s strategic acquisition of Education Umbrella, a company which in a short time has grown to become one of the key players in its market. Education Umbrella is an exciting business that with sound financial backing has great potential for future development as part of Bertram Group.”
CloserStill Media has acquired a majority stake in FocusZone Media, Inc., operating as The eLearning Guild, for an undisclosed sum. The eLearning Guild has a 40,000+ membership community of learning and development professionals in the United States and across the world. The Guild operates major conferences and exhibitions including DevLearn (Las Vegas, NV), Learning Solutions (Orlando, FL) and Realities 360 (San Jose, CL) and has a number of digital publications as well as research and online events.
CloserStill runs the world’s leading workplace learning event brand, Learning Technologies, with three market leading annual events in London, Berlin (with Online Educa) and Paris, a global digital community and the industry’s leading awards programme for corporate learning and development professionals. The London event in February is Europe’s largest annual exhibition and conference for the workplace learning sector attracting more than 8,000 attendees and over 200 exhibitors.
CloserStill’s Learning Group Managing Director, Mark Penton, said, “We are delighted to welcome The eLearning Guild and their impressive event portfolio to our growing global network and are incredibly excited by the huge opportunities this will create. And most importantly, we look forward to enhancing the collaboration between our family of learning brands and their learning communities around the world.”
The Learning Conference draws around 2,000 delegates from the technology and corporate learning sectors each year and more than 40 commercial sponsors in the learning and technology field. In 2017, former First Lady Michelle Obama and actor John Lithgow were keynote speakers and Leslie Odom Jr., author of “Failing Up”, and star of Broadway hit musical Hamilton and author Dan Pink will head the international speaker faculty of ‘Learning 2018’ in November.
Elliott Masie is among the most well-known figures in the global eLearning industry. He is founder of the Masie Center, an international learning lab, and chair of The Learning Consortium, a 20 year old collaboration of Fortune 500 companies. Under the new partnership with CloserStill, Masie will continue to lead the programme curation and act as host for the Learning Conference for the new JV company – CSM Learning, LLC.
A new focus on disruptive technologies will form part of Learning 2018, with the introduction of Tech @Learning – a multi-strand content programme focussing on adaptive learning, artificial intelligence and machine learning, emerging assessment technologies, chatbots, immersive realities, edTech and venture innovations.
CloserStill’s Learning Group Director, Mark Penton, said: “We are thrilled and honoured to be working with Elliott and his team. Elliott is an innovator and a disruptor and we feel that our combined global experience in the learning world will make for a very exciting new era for the Learning Conference which we have long admired and respected”.
supported learning and training, from ICWE GMbH for an undisclosed sum. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Founded in Berlin, Germany in 1995, OEB is an annual international conference on technology-supported learning and training (e-learning), welcoming over 2,000 delegates from across the corporate, education and public sectors, and including an exhibition featuring more than 80 international Edtech companies and institutions.
The acquisition will complement CloserStill’s existing event brand, Learning Technologies, which has events in Paris and London.
Commenting on the acquisition and the launch plans for Learning Technologies Germany in 2018 alongside OEB, CloserStill’s learning group director, Mark Penton, said: “We are genuinely excited to bring the highly respected OEB event into our family of market-leading events and to work with its founder Rebecca Stromeyer.
“We see a significant opportunity to evolve OEB into one of Europe’s most important learning events with the introduction of our Learning Technologies brand into the heart of the European marketplace.”
Rosetta Stone has acquired Seattle-based Livemocha, one of the world’s largest online language-learning communities, for $8.5 million in cash. Livemocha has a community of over 16 million members in 195 countries. The company uses crowd-sourcing to drive content development and social engagement. Livemocha will remain in Seattle.
“We are in the process of transforming Rosetta Stone to be the most dynamic and ubiquitous technology-based learning platform in the world,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Swad. “Our acquisition of Livemocha will help accelerate that transformation. With Livemocha and its vibrant online community on our side, Rosetta Stone will reach more people and change more lives than ever before.”
Pearson VUE, the assessment services business of Pearson, has acquired Exam Design Inc, a provider of examination development software used in high-stakes testing. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The purchase includes ownership of Exam Design’s flagship product, ExamDeveloper, a web-based suite of tools that helps users develop rigorous and defensible assessments for credentialing purposes while reducing the reliance on in-person meetings.
Pearson VUE has been working with Exam Design for over a year and currently publishes exams created through ExamDeveloper for a variety of clients. Headquartered in North Carolina, the Exam Design business and its employees will remain in their current locations, further supporting a seamless acquisition.
Robert Whelan, CEO and President of Pearson VUE, said: “Exam Design brings to Pearson VUE leading-edge test development technology that’s built on principles of psychometric integrity. Its expertise and services complement our own and fit perfectly with our future plans. This acquisition underscores our commitment to providing next-generation test development tools and services that support and protect the value of our clients’ credentials.
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