Executive Skills & Strategy

News Corp. Sells Amplify to Joel Klein, Other Executives

By Michele Molnar — October 06, 2015 3 min read

Amplify, the beleaguered digital education division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., was sold last week to a team of 11 Amplify executives that includes former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The sale happened after massive layoffs within the division.

Larry Berger, whose company Wireless Generation’s purchase by News Corp. five years ago had signaled the media giant’s move into education, will lead Amplify as CEO under the new ownership.

The management team buying the education division was supported in the purchase by a group of private investors, according to a News Corp. announcement, which did not reveal terms of the sale. In August, News Corp. indicated that it had written off $371 million in losses from Amplify over the past year, and planned to put it up for sale.

News Corp. has invested $1 billion in the education division since 2010.

The two Amplify Education businesses conveyed in the sale were Amplify Learning, which provides core curriculum in a variety of subjects for K-12, and Amplify Insight, which provides analytics, data, and assessment. The failed Amplify Access, which sold tablet computers with a “K-12 learning system,” has been discontinued, but the company will still support its ongoing project in the Guilford County, N.C., schools.

Berger has been serving as the CEO of Amplify Learning. Klein, the former Amplify Education CEO, will be moving to the new company’s board of directors, according to an email that Berger sent to staff members Sept. 30, the day the sale closed. (Berger served as a board member of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week, from 2009 to July 2015.)

About 500 Amplify employees were laid off last week, although the company indicated that many are staying through part of a four-month transition. Berger referred to the layoffs in his email to the staff, saying the decision to “let some of our colleagues go” was necessary “in order to focus our resources and attention.”

At its peak, Amplify had up to 1,200 people on its full- and part-time payroll, or acting as contractors, a former Amplify employee said.

Market Lessons Learned

Berger credited Klein with providing Amplify’s vision of combining curriculum, analytics, and software, and helping to plan for the buyout. Klein will play a key role in providing “critical strategic advice,” according to Berger’s email to the staff.

Klein’s vision for News Corp.'s involvement in education coincided with the Murdoch-led company’s purchase of Wireless Generation for $360 million in 2010.

Co-founded by Berger, Wireless Generation represented the first leg of what was to become a three-pronged approach to providing digital education products and services through Amplify. Klein planned to leverage Wireless Generation’s established assessment and analytics business, which had 400 employees when that company was acquired.

The Amplify sale last week represents a vote of confidence by the original leadership team, said Doug Levin, a consultant on the ed-tech market and a former head of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

Levin had said earlier this year that News Corp.'s foray into the K-12 marketplace was another example in “a long history of education entrepreneurs who have crashed on the rocks because the market was not what they thought it would be.”

But he views this latest development as a sign that members of the management team are willing to “put their money where their mouths are. “They did a lot of work in digital instructional materials,” Levin said, and received some positive reviews. He pointed to two products, in particular, that have gained some traction: Amplify’s gamification for middle school English and development of an Advanced Placement computer science MOOC (or massive, open online course) that Amplify released in 2013 and sold this August as Edhesive.

Berger, in his email to the staff, said he was “proud of the technology we’ve invented, the educational innovations we’ve pioneered, and the results we’ve delivered—and most importantly, of the team we’ve assembled.”

“Larry Berger has been successful building a company in the past, and the industry and customers both benefited from his vision and implementation,” said Karen Billings, the vice president and managing director for the Education Technology Industry Network of the Software & Information Industry Association. “And he knows what mistakes not to make in this go-around.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the October 08, 2015 edition of Education Week as News Corp. Sells Amplify to Joel Klein, Other Executives

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Arizona School Data Analyst - (AZVA)
Arizona, United States
K12 Inc.
Software Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Proposal Writer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Read Next

Executive Skills & Strategy Opinion Stop Ignoring the Innovation That Happens in Traditional Public Schools
Three national educational funders explain a new program that is highlighting innovative practices in schools around the country.
Jenny Curtin, Britt Neuhaus & Saskia Levy Thompson
4 min read
16 Curtin comm article Getty
Getty/Getty
Executive Skills & Strategy 'Genius Hour' Lets Kids Take Charge: Would Einstein Have Liked This?
Teachers open doors for students to fuel their curiosity and pursue passion projects, but educators warn against making it a free-for-all.
10 min read
Quin, Ezra, and Owen participate in genius hour in teacher Melisa Hayes’ 2nd grade class at Avery Elementary School in Hilliard, Ohio.
Quin, Ezra, and Owen participate in genius hour in teacher Melisa Hayes’ 2nd grade class at Avery Elementary School in Hilliard, Ohio.
Maddie McGarvey
Executive Skills & Strategy K12 Inc., Ga. Cyber Academy Contract Battle Brews
Students locked out of their school's computer systems. Educators unable to get access to some students' records. Parents receiving emails asking that they return their children's laptops.
6 min read
Executive Skills & Strategy Report Roundup Teaching
Forty percent of what elementary school teachers do on a typical workday could be automated by 2030, predicts a new report by the McKinsey Global Institute.
1 min read