Sunday 21 July 2019

Examiner picks six bidders for Shaw Academy

Troubled e-learning platform attracted strong interest but the field has narrowed, writes Michael Cogley

Karl Fitzpatrick, owner of Wexford-based Chevron Training and Recruitment, has made a €2m bid for the business in its entirety.
Karl Fitzpatrick, owner of Wexford-based Chevron Training and Recruitment, has made a €2m bid for the business in its entirety.

At least six bids have been made for troubled e-learning platform the Shaw Academy, the Sunday Independent understands.

The Dublin-based academy, which provides more than 70 different online courses to 4.5 million students globally, sought the protection of the court at the start of the year after its largest debtor made demands for it to repay €5.7m in loans.

The High Court-appointed examiner Stephen Tennant of Grant Thornton had sought expressions of interest from investors in order to put a scheme of arrangement in place that would see the company exit examinership within three months. It is understood that six preferred bidders have been identified by Tennant. A total of 39 parties expressed their interest in the business originally. The examiner did not respond to requests for comment.

The Shaw Academy posted revenue of €7.2m last year.

Founded six years ago by James Egan and Adrian Murphy, the business, which now employs 66, has grown from 10,000 students to 4.5 million last year. Initially offering finance-based subjects, it now offers subjects including design, beauty, languages, and photography.

The Shaw Academy encountered financial difficulties after Columbia Lake Partners Growth Lending issued a demand for the money it had lent in 2017. Earlier this month, the High Court heard that the Luxembourg fund had provided the group with €4.65m two years ago, which was due for repayment in November 2018. The court heard the Shaw Academy had been proactive and had been in talks with a potential investor, who had withdrawn in late December.

Directors and senior management had also made cuts to their remuneration and staff numbers before applying for court protection.

Shaw's non-executive chairman, Stephen Murphy, has enjoyed a high profile career and succeeded Richard Branson as chief executive of the Virgin Group in 2005 before standing down six years later. Murphy also chairs the Ovo Energy Group.

Last month, Wexford-based entrepreneur Karl Fitzpatrick made a €2m bid for the business in its entirety. Fitzpatrick led a management buyout of Chevron Training and Recruitment, which had entered into examinership, in December 2012.The Wexford-based company employed 15 people then but now has 44 staff.

The education entrepreneur declined to comment on an offer for the Shaw Academy.

An independent KPMG report, filed as part of the Shaw Academy's bid for protection from the court, found that the platform had a "strong underlying business".

Sunday Indo Business

Also in Business