Published Online: June 23, 1999
Published in Print: June 23, 1999, as Business Column


Business Column

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Software Sale: One of the nation's top sellers of educational software will soon be bought by a private-equity investment firm.

The San Diego-based Jostens Learning Corp., a privately held company, announced June 10 that it would be purchased by Ripplewood Holdings LLC of New York City at the end of the month.

"What Ripplewood wants to do is build a broader-based digital-content company ... with us as a centerpiece," said Terry Crane, the president of Jostens Learning. "This is their first educational acquisition of what we expect will be many."

Jostens Learning Corp. ranked as the second-leading publisher of K-12 instructional software in 1997, the most recent year for which figures are available, according to Simba Information Inc., a business-information publishing company.

Jostens Learning is known for its integrated-learning systems, which are comprehensive software and hardware packages that enable schools not only to teach students basic skills, but also to test and track their progress. Compass/Tomorrow's Promise, a K-8 curriculum and student-management program, is the company's biggest seller.

Minneapolis-based Jostens Inc., which sells school rings and yearbooks, purchased the company--then called Prescription Learning Corp.--in 1986 but sold it in 1995 to a group of investors.

Jostens Learning Corp.'s instructional software sales have lagged recently behind those of the industry leader, Computer Curriculum Corp., according to Simba. CCC is owned by Simon & Schuster Inc., which was purchased last year by Pearson Education, the owner of the textbook publisher Addison Wesley Longman Inc.

"CCC had the deep pockets of Simon and Schuster behind it, while Jostens didn't," Al Branch Jr., who heads Simba's education group, said.

Declining interest in integrated-learning systems also likely contributed to Jostens' decision to sell, Mr. Branch said. Last year, sales of stand-alone or modular software across the industry grew by 12.5 percent, from $302 million to $340 million, while sales of integrated-learning systems grew by just 5.5 percent, from $207 million to $218 million, according to Simba estimates.

"Maybe they stuck with the comprehensive platform a little longer than they should have," Mr. Branch said.

Ms. Crane said Jostens expects double-digit growth in revenue for this year.

"We totally overhauled the product line a year and a half ago. Almost 90 percent of what we sell today is our new product line," she added. "We've changed the product line so that we can sell it on singular CDs."

--Mary Ann Zehr

Vol. 18, Issue 41, Page 6

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