Nasdaq listing ends for Md. firm

The Baltimore Sun

Laureate Education Inc. shares traded for the last time on the Nasdaq stock market yesterday, ending its nearly 14-year run as a public company.

The Baltimore operator of online and foreign universities announced last night that a management-led investor group completed its $3.82 billion deal to take the company private.

The transaction's closure is a "wonderful capstone to the long period as a public company," said Douglas L. Becker, chairman and chief executive officer, who is scheduled to relocate to Hong Kong today to establish the company's Asian headquarters.

Despite opposition from large investors, such as Baltimore's T. Rowe Price Group, shareholders approved a final takeover offer of $62 a share. The investor group, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Citi Private Equity and S.A.C. Capital Management, had initially offered $60.50 per share.

Laureate stock closed at $61.97 yesterday.

Laureate traces its origins to Sylvan Learning Systems Inc., which went public in December 1993 in an initial offering that raised $22 million for the provider of educational services.

Becker and R. Christopher Hoehn-Saric, a close friend and business partner, bought the struggling Sylvan from day-care chain KinderCare for $8 million earlier that year. They were co-chief executive officers of Sylvan for several years.

In 2003, Sylvan sold its pre-kindergarten-through-12th-grade tutoring business to focus on higher education online and abroad and became Laureate. The tutoring business became Educate Inc., led by Hoehn-Saric. Educate recently completed its own management-private equity buyout, orchestrated by Hoehn-Saric.

Over the years, Laureate has grown into a billion-dollar business, operating Walden University, its flagship U.S. online institution, and about two dozen colleges and universities abroad, including Spain, France, Mexico, Chile and Brazil. About 80 percent of its revenue is generated in Europe and Latin America.

Last year, Laureate reported a profit of $104.2 million.

Becker has said it was necessary to take the company private so that it could aggressively expand in Asian markets, such as China, South Korea and India.

He is expected to be in Hong Kong for a year to set a foundation for the company's growth in Asia. Becker said last night that he was still trying to pack for his trip.

Laureate celebrated yesterday the opening of its new headquarters at South Exeter Street in Harbor East and employees sent Becker off on his trip.

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