Private equity goes to school as Sovereign wins $75m auction

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The Independent Online

UK private equity group Sovereign Capital is thought to have won the auction to buy World Class Learning Schools, an educational firm that owns the British Schools in America chain, for around $75m (£37.5m).

Sovereign is thought to have seen off a number of rival bids for the company, which is planning to increase its presence in the Middle East, where it already runs a school in Doha.

Jon Moulton (pictured), founder of private equity group Alchemy, is believed to be one of the investors who will benefit from the sale, with his stake thought to be worth up to $4.5m.

According to filings at Companies House made last week, World Class Learning Schools posted a pre-tax profit during the year to the end of August 2007 of £1.3m, up from £233,225 in the previous financial year.

The group has four separate units including the BSA chain, which was founded in 1998. It plans to grow the number of schools it runs in America from five to 20 in the next few years.

The move by Sovereign is its latest in the educational field, with the group having owned The Senad Group, which operates schools for pupils with special educational or care needs.

Sovereign sold Senad in July 2006 for £130m.

In December last year, Sovereign also sold its London-based independent schools group, Alpha Plus Holdings, to prop-erty investor Delancey Real Estate Asset Management, in a deal worth around £120m. Estimates suggest that it made a fivefold profit on the exit.

A spokesman for Sovereign was unavailable for comment.