A special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) is acquiring recently bankrupted ed tech Skillsoft and IT training provider Global Knowledge in a $1.5 billion reverse merger that will take both companies public.

Churchill Capital Corp II, an investment vehicle listed on the New York Stock Exchange, yesterday announced a $1.3 billion transaction to take over Skillsoft, after publisher of training software emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy and financial restructuring in August.

The SPAC, which following the deal will trade as Skillsoft on New York’s bourse, is also buying Global Knowledge for around $233 million from its private equity owner, Rhône Capital.

The combined company’s client base will include more than 70% of Fortune 1000 companies, and its platforms will have more than 45 million users worldwide, Churchill Capital said in a statement. Jeffrey Tarr, previously chief executive of Digital Global, will lead the new company.

Earlier this year, EducationInvestor Global exclusively revealed that Rhône Capital had abandoned an attempt to sell Global Knowledge after Cavendish Corporate Finance, which had been running an auction, failed to find a buyer.

Churchill Capital Corp II’s deal is the latest example of how ‘blank-cheque’ companies, which raise money through stock market listings then find businesses to acquire, are taking education organisations public without executing initial public offerings.

In March, EdTechX, a Nasdaq-listed SPAC launched by IBIS Capital, merged with China-based English-language training provider Meten. Meten EdTechX Education Group is trading at just $4.07 – less than half the price at which EdTechX floated in October, 2018.

IBIS Capital is currently raising money for its second SPAC, EdTech X II.

Michael Klein, chairman and chief executive of Churchill Capital Corp II, said: “This transaction is an excellent fit with Churchill II’s mission and focus, as both Skillsoft and Global Knowledge are dedicated to training and reskilling workers for jobs of the future, while providing exceptional shareholder returns in a high-growth market with favourable demographic trends. The combination will create the leading digital learning platform in the industry, and the new Skillsoft will be on track to become one of the fastest-growing companies in the digital learning space.”

Tarr said: “With an unrivalled library of content, best-in-class platform, multi-modal capabilities, global footprint, world-class customer base and strong balance sheet, we are well-positioned to drive growth, profitability and shareholder value.”

Ron Hovsepian, executive chairman of Skillsoft, added: “As we continue helping our customers build a future-fit, resilient workforce, Global Knowledge will extend our leadership in the growing IT training market.”

Todd Johnstone, chief executive of Global Knowledge, said: “We are excited about the increased opportunities that will now open up for us to innovate further in a growing global market and to work with our customers and partners to close critical skills gaps.”

Churchill Capital Corp II’s share price has risen just 1% since its market debut last August.

Date published: 15 October 2020

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