Lioncourt acquires English-language school ECM College

Deal marks group’s first foray into the sector and coincides with regulatory changes

Lioncourt Investments, a business founded by well-known investors David Andrews and Michael Tunney, has acquired the Dublin language school ECM College for a deal valued at over €1 million.

The transaction, which was conducted through the Lioncourt subsidiary, Real Experience Group, marks the company's first foray into the English language education sector.

The Real Experience Group, previously known as Kinlay Group, also owns USIT Travel and Budget School and Group Tours. The firm, which currently has turnover of about €33 million is looking to increase revenues to over €80 million by 2020 through a series of acquisitions and organic growth.

Founded in 2010 by brothers Eddie, Patrick and Ciaran O’Loughlin, ECM College, which employs 60 people, is a QQI/ ACELS accredited provider of English language courses. Its turnover has increased from circa €200,000 in 2010 to €2.5 million in 2015 and the college catered for 1,200 students from Europe, Central America, South America and South Korea last year.

Eddie O’Loughlin is to remain as managing director of ECM. He said the English language sector in Ireland had experience huge upheaval in recent years with the introduction of regulatory changes likely to result in further closures for unaccredited providers.

“This deal allows ECM College to continue to invest in and expand in Ireland and abroad as part of such a progressive and entrepreneurial group,” he said.

Lioncourt has a diverse investment portfolio that also includes Valeo Foods; Lioncourt Homes; Beechfield Nursing Home Group; and Elysian Collection, a Swiss-based property management company.

“We were very impressed by the quality and business model employed by ECM College and see it as a great addition to our other Irish brands such as USIT and Budget School and Group Tours, as well as our existing English language training companies in the UK. Having acquired London’s largest provider in this sector in May 2015, English Studio London, one of our strategic growth objectives is to expand the language sector of our business with further acquisitions and developments planned for Ireland, UK and the US,” said Karen Smith-Watson, chief executive of Real Experience.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist