Big windfall for backers

Investors see up to 100 times return on MBO

Early investors in a digital learning platform have reaped a bumper windfall after it was sold in a management buy-out.

Figures released by advisers to ICS Learn today show that those backed the firm in its formative stages have seen a return of more than 75 times their initial investment and more than 100 times taking into account tax reliefs.

The MBO was  backed by private equity firm Primary Capital Partners and led by CEO, Colin Kennedy and finance director, Alison Doyle.

The Glasgow-based platform was acquired by venture capital firm Par Equity in 2012 since when it has been transformed into a purely online delivery model. It now serves more than 15,000 online students, globally. 

In a statement, Par Equity managing partner, Paul Munn (pictured), said: “The sale of ICS Learn is the sixth positive exit from the portfolio since we began in 2008.

“It’s a great example of the hands-on investment approach Par Equity brings and is a fantastic outcome for investors returning over 75x the initial investment and over 100x if you take EIS reliefs into account.” 

Legal advice for the sale was led by Addleshaw Goddard corporate finance partner, Dave Anderson, who acted on behalf of Par Equity, Ironbridge Capital Partners and ICS Learn chairman, Angus MacDonald, among other shareholders.

Mr Anderson, corporate finance partner for Addleshaw Goddard, said: “ICS Learn is a great success story, having turned itself into a hugely profitable operation in under five years and now bringing significant investment returns for those that backed it in 2012.

“Hats off to Par Equity for recognising the significant potential and scalability of the business.

“The ICS Learn MBO underpins what is a healthy pipeline of private equity and corporate transactions in the pipeline in Scotland and shows that a business with solid fundamentals has the ability to trump wider investor uncertainty.”

Colin Kennedy, ICS Learn CEO, said: “Our investors have been fantastic partners and supported all of our growth initiatives, most notably the transition to becoming a wholly online business.

“The new ownership will allow ICS Learn to take the next step forward.  Primary has a very strong reputation in the growth capital investment space and I am pleased to be partnering with a shareholder that will support us as we pursue our growth strategy.”

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