- MarketCast is a preeminent provider of strategic insights and analysis to marketers and researchers in the global entertainment industry
BETHESDA, Maryland, Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- RLJ Equity Partners, LLC, an affiliate of The RLJ Companies, today announced its acquisition of MarketCast, LLC, a premier provider of strategic insights and analysis to marketers and researchers in the global entertainment industry. RLJ Equity Partners, in alliance with GE Asset Management, acquired MarketCast from Shamrock Capital Advisors, a leading media, communications, and entertainment private equity firm based in Los Angeles.
MarketCast works in collaboration with clients across the entertainment spectrum to test and optimize their content, marketing, and distribution strategies. The company maintains long-standing client relationships with all of the major motion picture studios and production companies, as well as a growing number of broadcast, cable, and OTT programmers and networks. Core services, applied worldwide, include testing of marketing materials and messaging as well as strategic research and advisory services related to market positioning, branding, franchise extensions, and sequel development.
MarketCast is globally recognized as a premier entertainment research firm and todays acquisition by RLJ Equity Partners is an opportunity to invest alongside an experienced team in the growing US entertainment industry, said Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and Chairman of RLJ Equity Partners. With its comprehensive audience engagement expertise and full-scale data analytics, MarketCast is uniquely qualified to provide a valuable service to motion picture studios to help grow their audience attendance and enjoyment, both domestic and foreign.
MarketCast is a leader in its field, with incredibly loyal, blue-chip customers and a tenured team of committed entertainment marketing experts and analysts, said Jerry L. Johnson, Managing Director of RLJ Equity Partners. We are excited to form this strategic alliance with MarketCast management to capitalize on the companys ongoing opportunities for expansion via organic growth and acquisitions.
This is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for MarketCast, said Henry Shapiro, CEO of MarketCast. RLJ Equity Partners, with its vast global network and long-standing experience in the entertainment business, is the perfect partner for us as we continue to invest in new products and services, and in expanding our footprint into new and emerging forms of entertainment distribution and marketing.
Partnering with the MarketCast team to carve out the business and establish it as a standalone entity was an important chapter in the companys history, commented Will Wynperle, Partner at Shamrock Capital Advisors. We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with MarketCast during this critical phase of its growth.
RLJ Equity Partners and GE Asset Management were joined in the transaction by Madison Capital Funding, RLJ Credit Management, LLC, and Brookside Mezzanine. MarketCast was advised by Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc., a leading independent investment bank for the global media, information, marketing, and technology sectors.
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The acquisition by newly-formed Zenith Education Group, which is affiliated with ECMC Group and Educational Credit Management Corp., a student loan guaranty agency, is expected to close in January. The deal comes after Corinthian Colleges entered into a settlement with the Department of Education stemming from allegations of falsifying job placement data used in marketing claims to prospective students and allegations of altered grades and attendance.
According to the operating agreement with the Department of Education, Corinthian Colleges will sell 85 of its campuses and wind down 12 others. Fifty-six campuses being sold first represent Corinthian#x2019;s WyoTech and Everest Institute US campuses outside of California, serving more than 39,000 students. The 12 others scheduled for closure will be sold as well.
#x201c;Everest and WyoTech students will benefit greatly from ECMC Group#x2019;s commitment to students and its goal of making a positive difference in career education,#x201d; Jack Massimino, chairman and CEO of Corinthian Colleges, said in a press release. #x201c;ECMC will focus significant resources on student programs and services and enhance the future prospects of Everest and WyoTech.#x201d;
Corinthian#x2019;s 12 Heald College campuses, 13 Everest and WyoTech campuses in California and Everest campuses in Ontario, Canada, will operate until buyers are found for them.
The US Department of Education said it supports the nonprofit organization#x2019;s intent to purchase the Corinthian College campuses.
#x201c;Thousands of students can now rest assured that they will be able to pursue their education and have more stability in the midst of this school year,#x201d; Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said in a press release.
For-profit colleges are often criticized for having expensive tuition and offering a lackluster education. WyoTech#x2019;s campus at Destination Daytona offers curriculum in motorcycle and marine technology. Tuition for a nine-month program at WyoTech is $26,500.
ECMC Group said it will focus on cutting tuition by 20 percent, improving job placement rates, emphasizing quality education over enrollment and being transparent.
#x201c;This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to make a difference in career education by offering students a new path for gaining the in-demand skills and training that employers are seeking,#x201d; said David Hawn, president and CEO of ECMC Group. #x201c;We are bringing our resources to bear to transform Everest and WyoTech into schools that are synonymous with student success #x2013; measured by strong program completion and job placement rates.#x201d;
The deal is pending approval from the Department of Education.
The ECMC Group, a nonprofit organization that runs one of the largest student-loan guaranty agencies, announced Thursday that it will purchase 56 campuses from Corinthian Colleges, a crumbling, controversial for-profit chain.
ECMC will create a nonprofit subsidiary, called the Zenith Education Group, to run the campuses, which enroll more than 39,000 students. The sale price is $24 million, according to a corporate filing from Corinthian. After having absorbed more than half of Corinthians enrollment and assets, Zenith will operate the nations largest chain of nonprofit career-oriented campuses.
Corinthians Everest, Heald and Wyotech chains include107 campuses, which in July enrolled 72,000 students and employed 12,000. The company has been attempting to sell 85 US and 10 Canadian locations, while gradually closing 12 campuses.
The sale announced Thursday includes 53 Everest College and three WyoTech campuses (click here for list).
Corinthian had been teetering even before a 21-day freeze on federal aid payments pushed it over the edge earlier this year. The company, which is one of the sectors largest, had been hit hard by slumping enrollment and revenue, as well as investigations, lawsuits and bad publicity.
David Hawn, ECMCs president and CEO, acknowledged that his organization had taken on heavily distressed assets. But he called the acquisition an opportunity to lead a transformation of both Corinthians campuses and the career-education industry, which has been dominated by for-profits.
Our success is not going to be measured by how many students we enroll, but how many complete, he said, as well as how many graduates are placed in well-paying jobs.
The deal is unusual, and perhaps unprecedented, on several levels. For almost six months the US Department of Education has been working with Corinthian to secure a buyer for its campuses and online programs.
The department has yet to approve the final sale, which is expected to close in January. With a likely sale price of $24 million, ECMCwill purchase half the campuses of a company that was once worth $3.4 billion.
ECMC runs the Educational Credit Management Corporation, the guaranty agency subsidiary part of the operation. The nonprofit, which has relatively deep pockets, submitted the winning bid for the Corinthian campuses.
The department will receive $12 million of the purchase amount. If approved, the new chain presumably will not face limitations the department imposed on Corinthian, such as aid freezes or oversight by the independent monitor, Patrick Fitzgerald, a former US attorney.
The department has been involved in a review of the transaction, Hawn said, calling it a very deliberative process.
Pending the sale#39;s approval, ECMC will own all of Corinthian#39;s US-basedEverestand WyoTechlocations outside of California.The nonprofit will also manage the teach out of 12 additional Corinthian campuses.
The unsold 39 campuses collectively enroll 20,000 students. Corinthian said it was continuing to look for a buyer.
While Hawn said ECMC was interested in buying the California campuses as well, it avoided them because of a lawsuit Corinthian is facing in the state. That legal challenge from Californias attorney general, Kamala Harris, features a wide range of allegations about deceptive marketing and job-placement claims.
Most of Heald Colleges 12 campuses are also located in California.
Hawn said Zenith would work to improve the Everest and Wyotech campuses. The new owner will not change the names of those institutions, he said, because rebranding is expensive. And ECMC would rather spend that money on upgrades.
First up will be a tuition reduction of 20 percent for new students in most Everest programs, ECMC said, effective as soon as the deal closes. The organization also plans to fund millions of dollars in institutional grants so students will not have to take out private loans.
ECMC said it will transform the culture of the campus system by bringing in a new leadership team and a new strategic focus on educational programming and the overall student value proposition. It will consolidate and centralize all compliance, quality control and internal audit functions.
To ensure a clean break from Corinthians troublesome past practices, ECMC Group will also employ a monitor to oversee its regulatory obligations, the group said in a written statement.
Degree programs at the soon-to-be-nonprofit chain of campuses will not fall under new federal regulations that seek to hold colleges accountable for graduates ability to repay their loans. The so-called gainful-employment rule applies to virtually all academic programs at for-profits, but only to non-degree ones at nonprofits.
Almost all of the purchased campuses hold national, rather than regional accreditation. The regional version conveys more status and desirability. The Everest campus located in Phoenix, however, is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, a regional agency.
ECMC has reached out to the accreditors, which will have to approve the change in control of the campuses.
Hawn said he was hopeful that Zenith and ECMC will be able to steer clear of the myriad legal and regulatory woes Corinthian faces, including federal and state lawsuits. Most of those legal challenges involve claims that the company misled students about their odds of getting a good job with a credential from Corinthian. But the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau (CFPB) sued over allegations of predatory lending.
ECMC has had discussions with numerous federal agencies as it worked on the deal, Hawn said. The nonprofit has also met with key players on Capitol Hill.
Hawn said ECMC worked to ensure that Corinthians legal difficulties are not inherited by us.
New Owner, New Controversy?
ECMC has faced some controversy of its own. The ECMC Group has several subsidiaries, including a foundation, a loan-serving corporation, an accounts-receivable management company and a records-services arm.
The Educational Credit Management Corporation is the core operation, however. It manages a $39 billion federal student loan portfolio. That entity had $683 million in assets in 2012, including to an Internal Revenue Service filing. The overarching groups assets were an additional $577 million.
Congress in 2010 moved all federal lending under the governments direct loan program. But ECMC retained some involvement. We continue in our guarantor role by sponsoring programs to help students and families plan and pay for college, the corporation said on its website. We work with schools and loan servicers to lower student loan default rates, promote financial literacy and provide resources to support student loan borrowers to successfully repay their loans.
Bloomberg News and The New York Times both published lengthy articlesin recent years that detailed the corporations sometimes-aggressive pursuit of borrowers.
ECMC charges fees to when it collects from a loan-holder, Bloomberg reported, and also receives a commission from the feds. The Timess article described the corporations ruthless approach as the largest backstop for federal loans. Those tactics included being so stingy with the parents of a borrower, one of whom was gravely ill, that a $12 meal at McDonalds was deemed excessive.
We are concerned that the article left the reader with an inaccurate impression of arbitrary standards enforcement,ECMCsaid in a written statement. This is simply not the case. Our role is not to determine social policy on student loan repayment, but to present the law fairly and consistently.
Supporters of ECMC#39;s approach said aggressive debt-collection can be necessary to hold borrowers accountable. They said others, like the federal government, must pay for any uncollected debt.
The Education Department is a major client of the guaranty agency. Asked about any possible conflicts of interest with the sale of Corinthian, which the department helped negotiate, Hawncited the rigor of the ongoing review process by the feds.
A Coup for the Education Department?
The pending sale of more than half of Corinthians campuses is, in some ways, a coup for the department, which has been scrambling to manage the orderly unraveling of one of the nations largest colleges since its regulatory crack down on the company earlier this year set off a liquidity crisis.
The prospect of finding an eligible buyer for a company with plummeting enrollment and so many legal and regulatory woes was seen as a tall order by many observers of the for-profit sector. Several Democratic members of Congress, namely Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, had alsodemandedthat the department should not allow another for-profit operator under federal or state investigation to purchase Corinthians campuses.
And the sale of the campuses, as opposed to their more immediate closure, means the department will not find itself in the position of having to use billions in taxpayer dollars to discharge students federal loans.
Ted Mitchell, the undersecretary of education, has been at the head of the departments intensive discussions over Corinthians future in recent months. At times officials worked in a War Room during what the department described as round-the-clock negotiations.
On Thursday Mitchell praised the sale of Corinthians campuses. He said the deal would allow students to maintain progress toward achieving their educational and career goals and protect taxpayers investment, while Corinthian moves out of the business.
Or a Step in the Wrong Direction?
At the same time, however, a chorus of consumer and student advocacy groups said they had serious concerns about the sale. They expressed concern that the campuses would be run by an organization that has not previously managed academic institutions.
ECMC has no experience running a college, let alone one of this scale, and is instead known for ruthless and abusive student loan operations, the Institute for College Access and Success, known as TICAS, said in a statement. With so many other colleges offering lower price, higher quality career education programs, its unclear why this agreement is in the interests of either students or taxpayers.
Higher Ed Not Debt, a coalition of progressive organizations and unions that focuses on student loan issues, similarly took issue with ECMCs storied history of harshly preventing the discharge of students loans in bankruptcy.
While bailing out 56 schools, the sale treats the more than 30,000 students like financial assets, Maggie Thompson, the groups campaign manager, said in a statement. All students should have the opportunity to opt-out of the sale and receive full refunds including full loan discharges of both federal and private loans.
Durbin, the top-ranking Democratic Senator, has relentlessly criticized Corinthian in recent months. He did not directly praise or criticize Thursdays agreement, saying only that the sale of the campuses should focus on sparing the students who have been victimized and the taxpayers who continue to be on the hook.
Student Loans and Conflicts of Interest?
Department officials did win some student debt relief for Corinthian students as part of the purchase agreement. An official called those provisions an important part of the deal for the department. Corinthian has agreed to forgive all of the private student loan debt on its books as soon as the sale closes. That amounts to about $4 million dollars, according to the company.
The CFPB has accused Corinthian of luring students into its Genesis loan program with false promises about career counseling and misrepresented job placement statistics. The lawsuit against the company also seeks debt relief for those students.
However, the loan-forgiveness provisions of the deal were woefully inadequate, consumer and student advocates said. Robyn Smith, a lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center, which represents low-income student loan borrowers, criticized the limited relief for students who were subjected to Corinthian#39;s deceptive high pressure sales practices.
Another concern over the sale is the possible conflict of interest that may arise with the non-profit corporations debt-collection subsidiary. ECMC Group owns Premiere Credit of North America, which is one of the 22 private debt collection agencies that the department hires to collect defaulted federal direct student loans.
If the sale goes through, ECMC would be in the position of owning, through Zenith, colleges and universities that could disburse federal direct loans to students while simultaneously profiting, through Premiere Credit, from direct loans that go into default. The department randomly assigns private debt collectors like Premiere Credit individual student accounts.
ECMC said it was working to address those concerns.
We are in discussions with the Department of Education to ensure that Premiere Credit does not work any cases that are referred to them by the Department of Education that involve students attending the Everest and WyoTech campuses included in the acquisition, a spokesperson for ECMC said in a written statement.We will have a solution in place by the closing of this transaction.
An Education Department official, who declined to be named, said the department would be reviewing that potential for a conflict as it considers granting approval to the sale. This is an important concern, and it is a question we will need to resolve as a condition to close this sale, the official said. We will work with our partners at the Department of Justice in thinking through the answer.