Buyout group Marlin Equity Partners has acquired Learning Pool, the Northern Ireland-headquartered e-learning provider, from Carlyle Cardinal Ireland, concluding an auction process exclusively revealed by this publication.

Marlin Equity Partners’ investment in Learning Pool – the value of which was not disclosed – will create 100 new jobs, according to a press release published today.

US-headquartered investment bank Baird – which had reportedly targeted an enterprise value of around €160 million, according to The Times – oversaw the sale of Learning Pool.

The transaction marks an exit by Carlyle Cardinal Ireland, a €300 million fund co-managed by The Carlyle Group and Cardinal Capital, an Irish asset manager, which invested in Learning Pool in May 2016.

During Carlyle Cardinal Ireland’s holding period, Learning Pool increased its revenue fourfold and grew its employee base to more than 260 across the UK and US. The firm also made several bolt-on acquisitions, of learning management system provider Remote Learner in December and HT2 Labs last June.

Marlin Equity Partners manages more than $7.5 billion and has completed over 175 acquisitions in the software, technology, healthcare, services and industrial technology industries.

Jan-Olivier Fillols, managing director, Marlin Equity Partners, said: “Learning Pool has achieved significant growth through its customer-centric philosophy and unique end-to-end e-learning proposition. We believe the business is extremely well-positioned to capitalise on a highly attractive market opportunity, and we are excited to partner with an exceptional team to drive both organic and inorganic growth together.”

Jonathan Cosgrave, partner, Melior Equity Partners, which advises the CCI fund on behalf of Carlyle, said: “Learning Pool’s success in growing revenue and profits fourfold through organic growth and acquisition, while tripling employee numbers and launching next generation learning products, clearly demonstrate the potential of founder-led Irish technology companies when partnered with an investor that facilitates a strong growth environment.”

Paul McElvaney, chief executive of Learning Pool, said: “Over the past five years we have achieved phenomenal growth with the fantastic support of Carlyle Cardinal Ireland, and we’re very grateful for the help and encouragement we’ve had from the team. We’re delighted to have found the right partner to help us continue our momentum and grow the Learning Pool brand globally.

“Marlin has an incredible heritage in helping businesses like ours scale and innovate. We’re excited to be working with them and confident that both our customers and our team will see immediate benefits from Marlin’s investment. Learning Pool’s entire executive management team has re-invested in the company, providing a compelling foundation upon which we’ll build the next phase of growth.”

Date published: 16 June 2021

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