Bertelsmann Education Group’s Acquisition of OnCourse Learning


Willkie client CIP Capital, a New York-based private equity firm focused on the business, marketing and knowledge services industries, completed the sale of OnCourse Learning to Bertelsmann Education Group, a division of Bertelsmann SE & Co KgaA.

Bertelsmann continues the expansion of its strategic growth area of education: The international media, services, and education Group is acquiring the U.S. online education provider OnCourse Learning from the private equity company CIP Capital for an amount in the mid-nine-digit euro range. The transaction further strengthens Bertelsmann’s presence in the U.S. Alongside the acquisitions of the Random House book group in 1998, the online education provider Relias in 2014, and the takeover of a 75-percent majority stake in Penguin Random House in 2017, this purchase is one of Bertelsmann’s largest transactions in the American market. The acquisition of OnCourse Learning has not been completed yet, pending approval by the U.S. antitrust authorities and is expected to close this fall.

OnCourse Learning was founded in 2007. Based in Brookfield, Wisconsin, the company employs around 375 people and provides digital corporate and advanced training courses for healthcare and financial services clients. It also operates a smaller division serving clients from the real-estate sector. Each year, approximately 750,000 learners and 19,000 B2B customers use OnCourse Learning. The company has an online library of around 22,000 courses.

Once the transaction has been completed, OnCourse Learning’s Healthcare division will be integrated into the Bertelsmann subsidiary Relias, which operates in the same industry. The transaction will create one of the leading online education providers in the healthcare sector. In recent years, Bertelsmann has repeatedly strengthened Relias through acquisitions, including in the field of performance metrics. The business, which is managed by CEO Jim Triandiflou, is also seeing significant organic growth.

OnCourse Learning’s educational offerings for the financial services and real estate sectors will be continued as a separate business in the future.

The markets for continuing education in the healthcare and financial services sectors have a combined volume of $3.6 billion in the U.S. alone. In both sectors, digital learning offers customers a cost-effective, efficient way to train employees.

Bertelsmann’s education activities have been combined under the Bertelsmann Education Group umbrella since 2016. Besides Relias, which is wholly owned by Bertelsmann, the company also owns a stake in the Udacity lifelong learning platform. In the first half of 2018, Bertelsmann Education Group achieved revenue growth of more than 20 percent. Apart from focusing its activities on the U.S., Bertelsmann is also expanding its education businesses into the strategic growth regions of China, India, and Brazil.

Willkie advised CIP Capital with a team including partner Matthew Rizzo (Picture), partners Russell Pinilis, Geri Anne McEvoy and Eugene Chang, and associates Eric Halperin and Andrea Hwang.

Involved fees earner: Matthew Rizzo – Willkie Farr & Gallagher; Eric Halperin – Willkie Farr & Gallagher; Andrea Hwang – Willkie Farr & Gallagher; Russell Pinilis – Willkie Farr & Gallagher; Geri Anne McEvoy – Willkie Farr & Gallagher; Eugene Chang – Willkie Farr & Gallagher;

Law Firms: Willkie Farr & Gallagher;

Clients: CIP Capital ;