Marlin Equity acquires controlling stake in Learning Pool

New investment agreed as Marlin buys out CCI stake in deal believed to be worth €175m

Learning Pool and Marlin managment pictured at the latter’s offices in London

Learning Pool and Marlin managment pictured at the latter’s offices in London


Marlin Equity Partners has acquired a controlling stake in Derry-based Learning Pool in a multimillion euro deal and agreed a new investment in the firm to support continued growth.

No financial details have been publicly disclosed but it is believed Marlin has paid in or about €175 million to acquire the majority stake from Carlyle Cardinal Ireland (CCI). This is above the €160 million it was reportedly looking for.

CCI is a €300 million fund co-managed by the Carlyle Group and Irish asset manager Cardinal Capital. It acquired a controlling stake in Learning Pool in 2016, at a time when the company was valued at €25 million.

Since that investment, Learning Pool has experienced dramatic growth as revenue has increased four-fold during this time mainly on the back of a series of acquisitions, including Remote Learner, a US-headquartered learning management system provider, which it bought last year.

Co-founded by Paul McElvaney in 2006, the e-learning company has more than 1,100 customers and claims more than five million “active learners” globally. Employing about 200 people, the company’s clients include the National Health Service, the FA, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Sky, Swiss Re, Centerparcs, Unicef, Ofcom and Dell.

Learning Pool recorded revenues of £18.1 million for the 12 months ending April 2020, up 32 per cent on the prior year, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £5 million. It said last August that it expected to continue to grow on the back of a rise in demand for online learning resulting from the Covid crisis.

Bowmark Capital and ECI Partners are also believed to have tabled bids for the e-learning company.

Marlin, a global investment firm with more than $7.6 billion of capital under management, is headquartered in California and has completed in excess of 180 acquisitions since inception. Among the companies it has backed are Allbridge, Prologic and VantagePoint.

The Marlin investment will facilitate further job creation with plans already in place to hire an additional 100 employees this year alone. It currently employs 260 people. Management have also agreed to reinvest in the company as part of the deal.

“We’re delighted to have found the right partner to help us continue our momentum and grow the Learning Pool brand globally,” said Mr McElvaney, the company’s chief executive.