K-12 Dealmaking: Frontline Acquired for $3.7B; Illuminate Education Bought by Renaissance

Staff Writer
K-12 dealmaking, edweek market brief

Private equity firm Thoma Bravo agreed to sell Frontline Education to Roper Technologies for $3.75 billion, the latter company announced this week.

Frontline, which makes administrative software for K-12 districts, will maintain its existing headquarters in Malvern, Pa., as well as its management team, brands, and offices.

A tax benefit resulting from the deal will result in a net purchase price of $3.375 billion, or roughly 19 times the company’s estimated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, Roper said in its announcement. Frontline is expected to bring in $370 million in revenue in 2023.

The private equity firm Thoma Bravo bought Frontline from Insight Venture Partners in August 2017 in a deal that valued the company at more than $1 billion. Now, ownership of the education company transfers to Roper, a publicly traded organization that works across global markets in an array of sectors, including application and network software.

“Frontline is a terrific business with clear niche market leadership, a proven track record of strong organic and inorganic growth, excellent cash conversion, and an outstanding management team that will thrive as part of Roper,” Neil Hunn, Roper’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter following regulatory approval and customary closing conditions.

Frontline is the third company Roper has acquired from Thoma Bravo, after it bought life insurance software company iPipeline from the firm for $1.6 billion in August 2019. Roper also acquired project-based software company Deltek from Thoma Bravo for $2.8 billion in 2016.

Illuminate Education acquired by Renaissance Learning. In a pairing of two huge players in the K-12 market, Illuminate Education was acquired by Renaissance Learning, the companies announced in an email to customers last week.

Renaissance said in the announcement that the acquisition of Illuminate’s whole child multi-tiered system of supports management platform will allow Renaissance to “deepen” its assessment capabilities and broaden its “commitment to keep teachers at the center of classroom decisions by providing actionable insights and personalized instruction to accelerate learning.”

Illuminate Education has been the recipient of major criticism over data-privacy breaches involving students from some of the nation’s largest school systems. The deal comes roughly three weeks after Illuminate was removed from the Student Data Privacy Pledge, as a result of the data breach.

Renaissance officials said it understood an incident like Illuminate’s data breach “causes concern” but added there’s no evidence data was misused. It also noted Illuminate is making identity monitoring available for those affected by the breach.

“At Renaissance, we have a robust security environment across all platforms to give you confidence that your student data is protected,” the company said.

Illuminate was formed by Insight Venture Partners in July 2018 through a mega-merger of five K-12 companies, including the firm’s holding Illuminate Education and Key Data Systems, as well as IO Education, SchoolCity, and Alpine Achievement.

Discovery Education acquires Pivot Learning. Just two weeks after announcing its acquisition of DoodleLearning, Discovery Education is at it again. Discovery, which is backed by private equity firm Clearlake Capital Group, said it has acquired science-focused interactive video platform Pivot Interactives SBC.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Acquiring Pivot will complement Discovery’s existing digital science products, including its K-12 platform, Mystery Science, the Science Techbook series, and STEM Connect, Discovery said in its announcement.

Pivot stood out because it “explores concepts using real-life experiments, not animations, allowing teachers to include phenomena-based learning at any stage of the learning cycle,” Discovery Education CEO Scott Kinney said in a statement.

“Through our acquisition of Pivot Interactives, Discovery Education is now better positioned to broaden our impact by providing our partner school systems access to phenomena-based, active learning tools,” Kinney said.

Pivot was founded by two physics educators who built its library of interactive, video-based activities with help from a roughly $600,000 National Science Foundation grant.

Image by Getty

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