Thoma Cressey takes educational company private for $125m

The Chicago-based private equity firm will acquire publicly-traded Excelligence Learning Corporation, an educational products developer and distributor.

Thoma Cressey Equity Partners, a Chicago-headquartered private equity shop, will acquire Excelligence Learning, a Monterey, California-based provider of educational products to the early childhood and elementary school markets, for $125 million (€99 million).

Excelligence shareholders will receive $13 per share in cash, a 60.5 percent premium over Wednesday’s closing price. Excelligence chief executive officer Ron Elliot, who owns 31 percent of the company’s outstanding common stock, will exchange 70 percent of his share for an indirect continuing interest in the company.

Formerly listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market, the company was delisted in February for failing to remain current in its SEC filings. The company fixed the problem and appealed the decision, but the appeal was denied in April. Excelligence then considered submitting an initial listing to the Nasdaq, but will instead now be taken private. The company, which was formerly known as Learningstar, is currently traded over the counter under the symbol LRNS.

Learningstar was created in 2000 with the merger of SmarterKids.com, an online educational toy store and Earlychildhood.com, a manufacturer and retailer of educational toy products. The company changed its name to Excelligence in 2001 so as to avoid any confusion with Dallas, Texas-based interactive educational technology company LearnStar.

Excelligence’s products are sold to child care programs, preschools, elementary schools and consumers for use by children from infancy to the age of 12. The company also sells school supplies to elementary schools for those institutions to sell for fundraising purposes.