Learning Curve Group sold in multi-million pound deal backed by private equity funds

Co-founders Judith Moran and Tony Outhart exit the business as management trio take over

Judith Moran
Judith Moran

Education subcontractor Learning Curve Group has been sold in a multi-million pound buy-out backed by private equity funds.

The Bishop Auckland-based firm, which has grown to become of the largest organisations of its kind in England, struck a deal with MML Capital Partners and will now be led chief executive officer Brenda McLeish, commercial director Jon Cummins, and finance director Julie Gilhespie.

The three directors will hold a 50% stake in the business while MML will hold the remaining 50%.

The undisclosed deal represents a successful exit for founding partners Judith Moran and Tony Outhart — who became minority shareholders and non-executive directors in a management buyout in 2013.

Together with clients services director and board member Heather Turner, the pair will now leave the business.

Learning Curve Group (LCG), which employs 164 full-time staff in County Durham, now says it will invest in expanding its curriculum portfolio and to deliver capacity in areas such as apprenticeships, English and maths, programmes for the unemployed.

Brenda McLeish said: “These are very exciting times for Learning Curve Group. This partnership will cement our reputation as a leader in education and training provision for many years to come.

“Our five-year strategic plan puts in place the resources and structure that will allow us to respond to the very strong demand for our market-leading products.

“We chose MML as our investment partner because of its extensive experience, flexible approach and strong partnership ethos, which will enable our senior management team to retain operational freedom.”

Judith Moran
Judith Moran

Founder Judith Moran — winner of both The Journal’s Durham & Wearside Executive of the Year Award in 2014 and Susan Dobson Award for Entrepreneurship at the 2014 WIN Awards — will retire.

She said: “Transforming lives through learning has been our mission since the company started in 2004 and we believe that the investment being made by MML will enhance the team’s ability to continue working towards that goal.

“Over the past 11 years Learning Curve has successfully forged highly effective and sustainable delivery partnerships with a wide range of FE providers and worked with countless employers to ensure their workers are the best they can be. We thank them all for their support.

“Both Tony and I are confident that Brenda, Jon and Julie will ensure LCG has another decade of success — and more. Their dedication, commitment and enthusiasm are second to none, as is that of the whole LCG team.”

The firm said its deal with MML Capital Partners will give it access to financial resources to strengthen its market position.

Forthcoming company acquisitions were noted as part of the strategy, the first of which is expected to be announced in coming weeks.

Since LCG was founded in 2004 the firm has become a provider of learning support programmes to further education providers, employers who want to upskill their workforces, and individuals seeking qualifications.

Judith Moran launched Learning Curve with her co-founder after a career as a lecturer and head of faculty for business and management, and head of distance learning and franchise at Bishop Auckland College.

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