A private equity firm, Montagu, has bought the College of Law in a deal which it says has created a £200m charitable fund for legal education.
The sale follows months of speculation, with Montagu Private Equity, media giant Pearson and Providence Private Equity all in the frame since the college announced a strategic review in September 2011.
Proceeds from the sale of the college, which has charitable status and owns a portfolio of city centre property in London and other cities, are to be put into a charitable foundation - the Legal Education Foundation - to provide hundreds of bursaries for law students every year. It will become one of the largest independent educational charities in the UK.
College of Law chief executive Nigel Savage (pictured) said: ‘The change in our ownership structure will enable us to access investment and expertise to take full advantage of the huge opportunities in the domestic and global legal education market. This will build on our heritage and connections with law firms and organisations such as the Open University and International Bar Association. Our vision is to be the leading world-class professional law school.’
Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said: 'The College of Law plays a significant role in producing excellent lawyers that the profession can be proud of. Investment specifically aimed at further enhancing high standards in legal education and training is to be welcomed. Investment from private equity into the way solicitors and barristers are educated has the potential to raise that bar higher and improve value for money for our members if training new lawyers remains the focus of the college of law under its new ownership and that focus is not diluted into other ventures.
'We look forward to speaking with the new owners to better understand their plans and commitment to the profession. In the same regard the separation of the business from the on-going charitable work of the foundation raises interesting possibilities. The Society will, of course, seek to offer the foundation its assistance and support in the future.'
A new company, owned by funds managed by Montagu, will acquire the entire legal education and training operations of the college. This includes contractual commitments with law firms, as well as The College of Law brand and all its accreditations, enabling it to continue to award qualifications and maintain the operation of the college.
Montagu said it is 'supporting the existing management team', led by Savage and staff of the college.
Montagu’s previous investments include buyouts in firms ranging from British Car Auctions to Marlow Foods, the maker of Quorn. The firm’s website says it has a ‘large pool of available funds’ to lead buyouts ranging from €100m to €1bn or more. It has no known experience in education.