Frank Maassen

Cognita, the global private school operator, has appointed a new group chief executive.

The firm, which is backed by Jacobs Holding, Sofina and BDT, has named Frank Maassen as successor to outgoing chief executive Chris Jansen, who will depart in October to lead Kantar, the global data giant.

Maassen has held senior operating and chief executive positions for a range of companies, including international construction equipment specialist Hünnebeck Group, French furniture and electrical retailer BUT, and private investment companies Sun European Partners and OpCapita.

He will work “closely” with Jansen until his exit to “ensure a smooth transition”, Cognita said in a press release.

Patrick De Maeseneire, chairman of Cognita, said: “We welcome Frank to the Cognita family. I am convinced that his global mindset, combined with his collaborative style, will be a good fit with our people and culture at Cognita.”

Commenting on his appointment, Maassen said: “I am excited to join Cognita with its distinctive culture, exceptional team and holistic approach to education. The focus on academic excellence in conjunction with the development of young people’s wellbeing and character is incredibly powerful and represents an exceptional opportunity to make a positive contribution to society.”

Like Jansen – who prior to leading Cognita held the helm at breakdown recovery giant the AA and a senior position with British Gas – Maassen has been drafted in from outside the education sector.

Cognita is not the only global private school operator to have onboarded top-tier talent from outside the sector, however.

Andrew Fitzmaurice, who leads Nord Anglia, stepped into his role in 2003 after leading easycar.com, an automobile rental company, and a 13-year stint in a senior role at TNT Express UK.

Similarly, Nadim Nsouli, who founded and heads up rival school operator Inspired Education, is a former private equity investor and had never before led a company.

“That most people come from outside the sector demonstrates the lack of talent in the sector in itself,” commented one private schooling executive.

Founded in 2004, Cognita operates 85 schools globally that collectively cater to some 58,000 students.

Date published: 22 July 2021

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