Just Childcare

UK nursery operator Just Childcare has been acquired by a private equity-backed Dutch childcare provider in an off-market transaction – marking an exit for Phoenix Equity Partners, which has been invested in the group since 2015.

In a press release published today, Just Childcare announced that it has been taken over by Partou, which, with more than 400 centres catering to some 26,000 children, claims to be the Netherlands’ largest childcare provider. Last year, Partou merged with KidsFoundation to form an entity with more than 650 centres in total.

Partou is backed by buyout groups Onex Partners and Waterland, which have co-own a majority stake in the organisation since the tie-up last January.

The value and terms of Partou’s takeover of Just Childcare were not disclosed.

Just Childcare has since 2015 expanded from seven settings to 62 today, located in the Northwest and Southwest of England.

The group is led by chief executive David Johnson, a former managing director of international schooling giant Nord Anglia. Just Childcare was founded by Johnson’s wife, Jacqueline. It is understood that the pair will remain with the organisation post-takeover.

David Johnson, who this publication interviewed in 2019, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have secured this new partnership with Partou. With long established experience in the provision of childcare we are looking forward to working alongside them to further develop the Just Childcare group in the UK market.

“Phoenix have been a great supporter over the past six years, providing us with the resources and support needed to substantially grow the group into one of the most acknowledged providers in the UK.”

Jeanine Lemmens, chief executive of Partou, said: “We are equally excited about this partnership and admire what David, Jacqueline and the entire Just Childcare team have achieved over the years. This collaboration indeed marks a new chapter, in our ambition to provide outstanding childcare to more children and families.”

Partou’s acquisition of Just Childcare was announced the same week as another significant off-market takeover in the UK early years market – that of ICP Education by Oakley Capital, a private equity firm.

Date published: 2 June 2021

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