Reuters: Blackboard Seeks $3 Billion Sale


Blackboard Inc., which recently debuted a re-engineered platform for users, is considering a sale that will bring in an estimated $3 billion to the company, a Reuters exclusive reveals.

The sale will include the company’s debts as well. Blackboard’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) are estimated at $200 million per year.

Blackboard’s major owner is Providence Equity Partners LLC, who had Bank of America Corp and Deutsche Bank AG run a clandestine auction on behalf of the company, Reuters’ sources reveal. The sources are not to be disclosed since the sale process is ongoing.

Reuters’ sources state that the valuation of Blackboard could be fourteen to seventeen times its EBITDA – as high as $3.4 billion. The sales news come a few days after Blackboard introduced an overhauled, learner-centered and improved platform dubbed the “New Learning Experience”.

Blackboard is being used by students, administrators and educators in colleges and a large percentage of schools. However, it has over the years garnered negative criticism for not paying attention to students and focusing on the educators’ needs.

The reinvented Blackboard, an education platform that allows the submission of assignments, student grading presentation and student-to-student and student-to-teacher communication, is decidedly student-centered and boasts a sleek interface that’s more user-friendly than its predecessor.

The shift in focus to learners was underlined by Jay Bhatt, President and CEO of Blackboard who said:

“In order for learners of all types and ages to be truly successful, we need to be brutally honest about what’s working and what’s not. We need to reimagine how learning can happen, and we’ve taken a major step toward realizing that vision today.”

“This isn’t just a learning management system. It’s mobile, analytics and collaboration tools, combined and consistently delivered,” Bhatt said about the reinvented Blackboard.

The new learning platform promises students a seamless learning experience thanks to new technologies and functionalities. The new platform is considered a simplification of Blackboard’s existing offerings, and one that aims to accompany students from K-12 through higher education.

Blackboard, founded in 1998, serves 19,000 clients in 100 countries around the globe. When Blackboard went private in 2011 for $1.64 billion, the company assumed $130 million in net debt, Reuters reports.

The education technology sector has been active, Reuters notes, with private equity firms acquiring ed tech startups and established companies.

Charterhouse Capital Partners acquired Skillsoft for over $2 billion while Hellman & Friedman LLC acquired Renaissance Learning for $1.1 billion.

Education technology funding in 2014 continued to rise, with about $2 billion in education technology investment. In 2009, that amount was just $385 million, reports Fast Company.