French media giant Vivendi Universal has completed the sale of educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Co. to a consortium of private investment firms. The Boston-based publisher with more than $1 billion in sales reportedly was purchased for $1.66 billion.

Thomas H. Lee Partners, Bain Capital, and The Blackstone Group acquired the company as part of a two-pronged move by debt-laden Vivendi to unload Houghton, which began in November 2002 with the sale of Houghton subsidiary Sunburst Technology—a supplier of educational software titles for the K-8 market—to Thayer Capital Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based private equity investment firm.

While its new owners remain committed to expanding Houghton’s future business, there is little question that the publisher took a hit on the ed-tech front when it parted ways with Sunburst, which produces such well-known titles as Tenth Planet, HyperStudio, and Type to Learn.

The remaining company still has two divisions that focus solely on the delivery of technology services to schools: Classwell Learning Group, a maker of online student management systems that bring together information about instruction, teacher development, and assessment; and Promissor Inc., a provider of computerized knowledge measurement services that help schools build teacher assessments and other professional training modules.

Collin Earnst, Houghton’s director of media relations, said the company’s new owners have no immediate plans to alter any of the products or services it offers to schools. But, he said, as new ownership searches for ways to expand the business, shakeups are not out of the question.

Jim McVety, a senior analyst with industry analysis firm Eduventures Inc., agreed that anything is possible: “It’s too early yet to speculate on what the long-term composition of the company will be.”

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