International media company and education giant Pearson PLC has announced an agreement to buy the Boston-based FamilyEducation Network (FEN), the largest home-school community on the web, for $129 million in cash.
The deal will add substantially to Pearson’s already extensive collection of K-12 properties, which includes Computer Curriculum Corp., Prentice Hall, and Addison Wesley Longman.
FEN generates more than 50 million page views per month, according to company officials. The network includes well-known online brands such as familyeducation.com, funbrain.com, infoplease.com, mygradebook.com, myschoolonline.com, schoolcash.com, and teachervision.com.
FEN’s partners also include leading education groups, such as the National PTA, American Association of School Administrators, National School Boards Association, and National Education Association.
Under the terms of the deal, Pearson will get 87 percent of the equity in FEN. America Online, the world’s leading internet company, will continue to be a minority shareholder in FEN, along with FEN’s founders and its chief executive, Jonathan Carson.
The acquisition of FEN will help Pearson develop the K-12 channel of its new Learning Network, company officials said.
Scheduled for launch in September, the Learning Network will offer users four integrated online networks serving the K–12, higher education, professional development, and lifelong learning markets.
Pearson also has reached a preliminary agreement for a minority investment in Classroom Connect, a leading developer of web-based curriculum and professional development programs for K-12 educators. Classroom Connect will offer its signature productsClassroom Today, Connected University, and Quest Interactive Expeditionswithin the Learning Network’s Teacher channel.
“In seizing this opportunity, we are opening up a new and rapidly growing market for our education business while creating educational opportunities for every age and every stage of learning,” said Marjorie Scardino, Pearson’s chief executive. “We aim to work with FEN, Classroom Connect, and all our partners to make the Learning Network the place to go for online learning.
Phil Hoffman, president of Pearson Inc., will be the Learning Network’s chief executive officer, responsible for commercial and financial operations. Jonathan Carson, CEO of FEN, will be CEO of the Learning Network’s K-12 channel. The CEOs of the higher education, professional development, and lifelong learning channels will be announced later.
The Learning Network will be supported by online subscriptions paid by school districts and other users, as well as corporate sponsorships and advertising sales. A Learning Network store also will provide opportunities for the sale of online and off-line products, Pearson said.