London-based buyout firm Apiary Capital has invested in Access Creative College and appointed Jo Johnson, brother of Britain’s prime minister, as its chairman.

With more than 3,000 students, Access Creative College claims to be the UK’s largest provider of specialist education in the creative industries. It provides apprenticeship qualifications through a recently formed partnership with the National College of Creative Industries.

Apiary Capital, which also owns Bertram Nursery Group, made a “growth capital investment” in the organisation to “accelerate its expansions plans”, it said in a press release, in which it did not disclose terms of the deal.

The investment marks Apiary Capital’s first in the further education sector.

The mid-market private equity firm has installed Johnson, brother of Boris Johnson and a former minister of state for universities, as chairman, while chief executive Jason Beaumont will spearhead Access Creative College’s strategy.

Jo Johnson is also non-executive chairman of Tes Global, the education services provider owned by Inflexion Private Equity, andchairman of student-recruitment platform ApplyBoard’s advisory board. 

The college delivers vocational education in the creative industries at its campuses in London, Birmingham, Bristol, York, Lincoln and Norwich, as well as from other locations under agreements with other providers.

Apiary’s investment will enable Access to “continue to develop its existing facilities, grow enrolments at its campuses, develop new properties, and expand its apprenticeship provision”, the firm said in a statement.

Mark Salter, managing partner at Apiary Capital, said: “Access has a great reputation in the further education sector, which has only been enhanced by its impressive response to the challenges caused by lockdown.”

Johnson said: “The further education sector has a hugely important role to play in our education system. Access is an impressive, innovative provider, and a great example of how working closely with industry and employers can best prepare learners for careers.”

Founded in 2002, Manchester-based Access also operates Coaching Connexions, which offers sports education and coaching programmes.

According to filings with Companies House, in the year ended 31 July, 2019, Access recorded turnover of £16.9 million – up 25% year-over-year – and pre-tax profit of nearly £749,000 – a 115% increase from a year prior.

Apiary Capital closed its maiden fund at £200 million in June, 2018.

Date published: 4 September 2020

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