Blackboard Inc., the ed-tech company that last year purchased Presidium and has since continued to expand it’s Pulaski County Campus located in the Valley Oak Business and Technology Park, is being sold to Providence Equity Partners, a private investment group, for $1.64 billion. The investment group will also assume $130 million in debt, according to a corporate press release.
Blackboard is perhaps best known for its work with postsecondary institutions, but also makes software for K-12, trade schools, corporations, governments, associations, and even the military. The company’s Pulaski County campus at Valley Oak specializes in helpdesk services for college campuses.
Blackboard’s sale concludes a process of more than three months, according to the release, one that began when the company formed a committee of outside, independent directors to review its strategic options. Blackboard shareholders will be paid $45 per share from the sale.
“This compelling transaction is the result of a comprehensive evaluation of our strategic alternatives, and we firmly believe it delivers significant value to all Blackboard stockholders,” said Michael Chasen, Blackboard’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “In Providence, we will have a partner who brings a deep understanding of the international education marketplace and shares our vision of providing educators with exceptional technology solutions and services to meet their evolving needs over the long-term. We look forward to welcoming Providence to the Blackboard team.”
Ross D. Rutt, director of operations for Blackboard Student Services, last March told members of the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce that Blackboard provides student lifecycle management services for admissions and enrollment as well as financial aid, student accounts and retention. It also provides helpdesk support for students and faculty for various learning management systems, including Blackboard Learn.
“This is a very positive move for Blackboard as a whole,” Rutt said of the purchase Friday afternoon.
Rutt said Providence approached Blackboard about the transaction, and, considering the company’s “good shareholder values,” top executives felt they should take Providence up on the offer.
“We think this will help us build into the future and give us more capital investment as a whole,” Rutt added.
Providence owns several prestigious companies, Rutt noted, so the purchase of Blackboard serves as a tribute to its success.
“It means they’ve recognized us a ‘best in class’ business,” Rutt said.
Blackboard Student Services officially acquired Presidium Dec. 30, 2010. Presidium moved to Somerset in June 2006, operating out of a rented welding bay at Somerset Community College. The bay accommodated 34 regular work stations and 15 temporary stations.
Presidium in May 2007 moved to a state-of-the-art facility in Valley Oak Business and Technology Park, expanding its operations size to 160-seat capacity.
The company continued to grow. It increased its employee base to more than 350 for the August 2008 rush. And now, as Blackboard, it is currently operating in three buildings in the technology park and hires up to 600 employees during rush periods.
“Our purchase of Presidium was one step, and now this will just take things higher,” Rutt said.
Blackboard Student Services helps colleges and universities meet the daily, weekly and monthly peaks in demand for real-time response through virtualized staff and infrastructure. It specializes in e-learning support services, student lifecycle management services and IT help desk support services, Rutt said.
“Delivering easy and cost-effective access to services such as financial aid, registration and technical support is crucial throughout the entire student lifecycle. Our solutions empower administrators, faculty, front-line service providers and students to improve the education experience and increase efficiency with an eye towards sustainable growth,” says Blackboard’s website.
“Our customers are public and private providers of education,” noted Rutt. “(We serve) their boards of trustees, administrative leadership, faculty and staff, students, parents, graduates and prospective students,” Rutt noted.
“We are part of the American educational system,” he concluded.
CJ Staff Writer Tricia Neal contributed to this article.