Private Equity Firm Buys Renaissance Learning—and Buys Back MyON


Private Equity Firm Buys Renaissance Learning—and Buys Back MyON

By Stephen Noonoo     May 4, 2018

Private Equity Firm Buys Renaissance Learning—and Buys Back MyON

In what’s playing out like a game of edtech musical chairs, digital literacy platform myON is changing hands again—for the third time in 15 months—as part of the just-announced acquisition of its parent company, Renaissance Learning, by private-equity firm Francisco Partners.

Just six weeks ago, Renaissance announced its own acquisition of myOn from none other than Francisco Partners, who are scooping it back up as they take charge of both companies from fellow equity group Hellman & Friedman, which paid $1.1-billion for Renaissance in 2014. Francisco had originally purchased myOn from Capstone in early 2017.

Terms of the new acquisition were not disclosed, but in an interview with EdSurge, current Renaissance CEO Daniel Hamburger called it “one of the largest investments that Francisco Partners has ever made” in its 20-year history.

Hamburger says Renaissance aggressively pursued the myOn merger right around the time he was getting offers from various equity firms to take his own company off the hands of Hellman & Friedman. After the merger, Francisco emerged as one interested party. After exploring several other offers, the Renaissance board ultimately selected Francisco, who have been making various moves in the education space, most recently acquiring a majority stake in Discovery Education in February.

Hamburger won’t be staying on as CEO when the sale is expected to close in a few weeks, although he will remain in an advisory capacity for a few months. Chris Bauleke, who was brought on as myON’s chief executive when Francisco bought it the first time in early 2017, will helm the much-larger Renaissance.

“Chris has worked with Francisco Partners for years,” says Hamburger, both at myOn and the healthcare IT company Healthland. “This makes sense that a firm making such a giant investment would want someone who they had worked with for so many years to help steward that investment.”

In spite of the upheavals, Hamburger says things will be more or less business as usual. The six-week-old merger between Renaissance and myON is in full swing, and the combined companies’ 1,100 employee headcount (1,000 of which come from Renaissance) will remain about the same.

Wisconsin-based Renaissance was formerly a public company that went private in 2011. It is perhaps best known for its flagship assessment program, Accelerated Reader, and the company claims a presence in a third of U.S. classrooms and about 70 countries worldwide. MyON offers ebooks and other scaled literacy materials, and is used in about 8,500 classrooms across the country. Renaissance bought myON in an effort to compliment its offerings.

“MyON is a strong brand for digital literacy,” Hamburger told EdSurge in March. “And Renaissance is a strong brand for measuring literacy.”

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