A renaissance of PE interest in Renaissance

Contact: Brenon Daly

In 2010, PLATO Learning went private in a relatively straightforward process that took just two months from Thoma Bravo’s announcement of the leveraged buyout (LBO) of the online education vendor to the close of it. Now, privately held PLATO is drawing out – and making more expensive – the LBO of fellow online education provider Renaissance Learning. PLATO has been part of a bidding war for Renaissance that has been playing out since mid-August.

In the original offer, buyout firm Permira planned to acquire Renaissance, which has been public since 1997, in a deal valued at $440m. (Somewhat unusually, terms call for Permira to pay one price for Renaissance’s common shares that trade on the Nasdaq while paying a lower price to the cofounders of the company, who control 69% of the equity.) PLATO then topped Permira’s opening bid a week later.

Earlier this week, Permira raised its offer, as did PLATO. However, the board continues to support the Permira bid – even though it values Renaissance at $16m less than the offer from PLATO. The reason? The cofounders don’t want to sell to PLATO. Other shareholders, who represent the remaining 31% of Renaissance equity, will have a chance to vote on Permira’s offer on October 17