Back to school for Graphite as it backs Explore Learning

Mid-market private equity firm Explore Learning has backed the management buy-out of Explore Learning.

The management team of Explore Learning has led a buy-out of the business in a deal valued at £30 million.

Equity support has come in the form of Graphite Capital, an investment firm behind past deals with stationary chain Paperchase and fashion retailers Kurt Geiger and Jane Norman.

The Explore Learning business provides tuition for primary school children and was founded by chief executive Bill Mills in 2001.

Since then it has gone on to open 62 centres across the UK providing learning in maths and english and has 16,000 children enrolled as members.

According to Explore Learning, 23 per cent of children have been tutored at some point during schooling and the global market is expected to grow by 100 per cent to $100 billion by 2017, driven especially by the Asia Pacific region.

The deal is Graphite’s latest in a string of education transactions which have seen the firm acquire Teaching Personnel in 2010 and Protocol Education in 2011.

Mills comments, ‘[Graphite’s] experience of rolling out sector-leading concepts and helping businesses expand in international markets will contribute to refining our customer proposition and shaping our expansion strategy in the UK and overseas.’

Graphite’s backing sees it purchase a majority stake in Explore Learning from a group of investors including the Spectrum Venture Management Fund and Wittington Investments. The senior management team is re-investing a ‘significant proportion’ of its sale proceeds.

Mills and Explore Learning now have ‘ambitious expansion plans’ to open a significant number of new centres both in the UK and globally.

Markus Golser, senior partner at Graphite, adds, ‘We were very impressed by Explore’s culture and the proven operational ability of its management team, led by Bill Mills, an exceptionally talented chief executive.

‘We see Explore as one of the most compelling investment opportunities in the fast growing education sector.’

Graphite manages £1.2 billion through three private funds and the publicly-quoted Graphite Enterprise Trust PLC. Its current fund, Graphite Capital Partners VII, is a £585 million fund raised in 2007.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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