The family behind the Tour de France has taken a minority stake in a group of for-profit higher education institutions, EducationInvestor Global can reveal.

This publication has learnt that France’s Amaury family has acquired a 20-25% stake in ACE Education, which owns several private universities with campuses in France and the UK.

Groupe Amaury is a media conglomerate that publishes L’Équipe, a French national sports newspaper, and organises the Tour de France, as well as other cycling races and major sporting events. It is majority-owned by Marie-Odile Amaury, widow of French media tycoon Philippe Amaury.

Groupe Amaury is understood to have been attracted to ACE Education’s French sports-management school AMOS, to which it can lend its network and industry expertise, in addition to capital.

Meanwhile, under the deal private equity house Oakley Capital has expanded its minority stake in ACE Education to a majority of 60-65%.

To facilitate Groupe Amaury’s investment, NMN Cap (formerly Educas), the investment vehicle of Nadim Nsouli, founder and chief executive of Inspired Education, has exited its minority stake in ACE Education.

Patrick Touati, founder of AMOS, has sold down a portion of his stake in ACE Education but has retained a 15-20% slice of, and continues to work for, the organisation, it is understood.

AMOS served as the foundations on which ACE Education’s portfolio was built. Oakley Capital and NMN Cap bought AMOS in 2017 and expanded the group via the acquisitions of hospitality school CMH and ESDAC, a design institution. ACE Education, which also owns Spanish sports-management school ESBS, operates 20 campuses in 15 cities across Europe.  

EducationInvestor Global exclusively revealed last September that Oakley Capital and NMN Cap had hired Rothschild & Co to find a buyer for their minority stakes in ACE Education.

As revealed by this publication’s Rumour Has It newsletter, Abenex Capital, Capital Croissance and Peninsula Capital tabled offers for a majority stake in ACE Education – however, none were accepted.

Following months of deliberation, NMN Cap agreed to exit – enabling Groupe Amaury to buy in – at a price that yielded a return greater than a four-times multiple of money (MoM), a source familiar with negotiations said, on the condition of anonymity.

In increasing its stake in ACE Education, Oakley Capital will execute a fund-to-fund transfer, moving its shareholding from one investment vehicle it controls to another, extending the holding period in the process.  

The transaction represents Oakley Capital’s second education deal of the month. Around three weeks ago, Oakley Capital bought one of the UK’s largest nursery operators ICP Education in an off-market play.

Oakley Capital also owns stakes in a number of other European education companies, including Germany’s Career Partner Group, a private higher education provider, and Schülerhilfe, an after-school tutoring business with centres across Germany and Austria.

One market observer suggested that Oakley Capital could look to combine ACE Education with Career Partner Group to create a pan-European higher education platform.

The transaction involving ACE Education severs business ties between Oakley Capital and Nsouli, who manages his investments through NMN Cap. Oakley Capital was a founding investor in Inspired Education – launched in 2013 and led by Nsouli – until last year when Singaporean wealth fund GIC acquired its minority stake in the global private schooling giant. Inspired was Oakley Capital’s first education investment.

A spokesperson for Rothschild declined to comment. Nsouli declined to comment. Oakley Capital had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication. Wanda Corporate Finance, which advised Groupe Amaury, did not respond to a request for comment on behalf of it and its client.

Date published: 25 June 2021

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