Pluralsight, the publicly-traded provider of online training courses on technology skills, has reached an agreement to be acquired by Vista Equity Partners in an all-cash deal worth approximately $3.5 billion.
The Utah-based company was founded in 2004 to compete against the likes of Lynda and other online education companies focused on serving technology and business professionals. Its platform features video courses developed mostly from paid third-party authors, to which individuals and organizations can subscribe to.
Before going public in May 2018, the company had raised nearly $200 million in venture capital across three investment rounds, the last of which valued it at over $1 billion.
Today, Pluralsight offers a library of over 7,500 online courses across technology, design and business skills. It also offers a data analytics tool for engineers, called Flow, which came about as a result of its $170-million acquisition of GitPrime in 2019. Together, the company claims it serves over 17,000 customers, including 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies.
This would mark the second publicly traded education technology company to be acquired by a private equity firm in as many years. In March, Thoma Bravo acquired Instructure for $2 billion after a protracted back-and-forth with its largest shareholders. The company, also based in Utah, is best known for its Canvas learning management system which is widely used by colleges and universities.
The $3.5-billion purchase price represents a 25 percent premium above the average closing value of Pluralsight’s stock over the past 30 days, according to an announcement shared on Sunday evening. The stock was $18.98 at Friday’s close.
The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2021. If approved, shareholders will receive $20.26 in cash per share. That is slightly below the $20.88 closing price on Pluralsight’s first day on the public market in May 2018.
Pluralsight’s stock had been trading around the $30-range for most of the first half of 2019. But a miss in billings revenue in the second quarter of 2019 sent its stock tumbling by nearly 50 percent. The price fell as slow as $7.66 after the pandemic outbreak and has since recovered, but not to early 2019 levels.
Much of the company’s revenues come from enterprise business subscriptions, and Pluralsight’s chief financial officer James Budge has acknowledged that the pandemic has forced companies to reevaluate their spending on discretionary services like training in the short term.
Vista Equity Partners expects the software training business will rebound. “We have seen firsthand that the demand for skilled software engineers continues to outstrip supply, and we expect this trend to persist as we move into a hybrid online-offline world across all industries and interactions, with business leaders recognizing that technological innovation is critical to business success,” said Monti Saroya, a senior managing director at Vista, in a statement.
The private equity firm currently owns other large education technology companies, including PowerSchool, the most widely used student information system in the U.S. K-12 market, and EAB, an enrollment service provider used mostly by higher-ed institutions.
Robert F. Smith, CEO of Vista Equity Partners, has recently donated millions to educational causes, the most high profile of which involved paying off the debt for the spring 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College. He also financed a new initiative this year to reduce student debt at historically Black colleges and universities.
His record is not without blemish, though. In October, he admitted to tax evasion charges as part of a $140-million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.