Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Names Renaissance Learning Chief as New CEO

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a global publisher and content provider, has tapped John “Jack” Lynch as its next CEO and president, in a leadership change that will affect two major players in the K-12 landscape.

Lynch has served since November 2012 as CEO of Renaissance Learning, a big provider of products focused on assessment and learning analytics.

“HMH is exceptionally well-positioned to lead the education industry in the rapid transition to digital and highly personalized learning experiences,” Lynch said in a statement. “Educators today are seeking solutions from companies they can trust to improve student outcomes, and HMH is well-positioned to meet that need.”

Jack Lynch
Jack Lynch

One measure of Renassiance Learning’s status in the education market came into view in 2014, when the organization was acquired by the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman for $1.1 billion, in what was one of the biggest deals of its kind in the history of ed-tech.

Renaissance provides a variety of products across subjects; perhaps its best-known are its STAR assessments, short tests that provide educators with learning data.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is one of the most recognized names in the education industry, though it has weathered a period of tumult and financial disappointment recently.

In September of last year, HMH’s president and CEO, Linda K. Zecher, abruptly resigned, and the company named L. Gordon Crovitz as interim CEO. Crovitz will remain in the interim post until Lynch takes the helm, HMH said.

Last year HMH’s stock price took a beating after the company posted weaker-than-expected results. In the third quarter of 2016, the company reported that revenue fell 7 percent year over year, to $533 million, below Wall Street’s projections. Shares for the Boston-based company, fallen by 45 percent at one point last year, Barron’s reported. My colleague Michele Molnar wrote at the time that HMH attributed its loss of 3 to 4 percent market share in the domestic education market largely to a failure to create new reading programs for California’s latest English/language arts adoption.

Renaissance Learning said that the company’s chief financial officer, Mike Evans will serve as interim CEO, and that Lynch is helping with the transition. Before coming to Renaissance, Evans worked at Pearson, leading its K-12 literacy and math business products. Renaissance’s board of directors is launching a search for a full-time replacement.

The chairman of Renaissance Learning’s board, Tarim Wasim, in a statement credited Lynch with having “positioned Renaissance as a leader in education technology, with products that are trusted by teachers worldwide.”

(Lynch serves on the board of EdWeek Market Brief, a membership service that provides K-12 companies and others with journalism, analysis, and data on the needs and priorities of K-12 schools.)

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