Showing posts with label Vistria Group. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vistria Group. Show all posts

Thursday, April 28, 2016

University of Phoenix to be sold to private equity groups: Insiders float away on golden parachutes

Earlier this year, Apollo Education Group, owner of University of Phoenix, announced that it was in negotiations with three private equity funds to sell out for a little more than $1 billion.

Vistria, one of the potential buyers, is run by Martin Nesbitt, widely described as President Obama's best friend.  And that label is probably not hyperbole. Nesbitt was Obama's campaign manager for both his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and Nesbitt now heads the Obama Foundation, which will oversee the construction of Obama's Presidential Library. Yes, Nesbitt may really be Obama's best friend.

Why is Apollo Education Group, a publicly traded company, selling out to three private equity groups? Perhaps because things aren't going well with the University of Phoenix, Apollo's principal asset.

In its heyday, UP enrolled almost half a million students and raked in more than a billion dollars a year in federal student aid money. UP's parent company was worth $16 billion, and its stock soared to $95 a share.

But times have changes. UP's enrollment has plummeted to less than 200,000, forcing it to close some campuses. In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission began investigating. Today the stock is trading at below $8 a share, and the company is worth less than 1/16 its peak value.

So the big boys decided  it was time to put some lipstick on their pig and sell it.  

And if the sale goes through, Apollo's insiders will do very well. According to a story appearing last month in the Arizona Republic, the sale would provide gold parachutes to several top executives:
  • Greg Cappelli, Apollo Education's CEO, would get $4.2 million in cash and $3.1 million in equity and other benefits.
  • Sean Martin, Apollo Education's General Counsel, would get $1.4 million in cash and $4.2 million in stock.
  • J. Mitchell Bowling, Chief Operating Officer, would get $1.5 million in cash and $1.8 million in stock.
  • Timothy Slottow, president of University of Phoenix, would get $2 million case and $717,000 in stock.
  • Gregory Iverson, Apollo Education's chief financial officer, would get almost a million in cash and $1.7 million in stock.
Not bad compensation for the guys who ran the University of Phoenix into the ground!

And who are the potential buyers? Three private equity groups are partnering to buy Apollo Education Group: Phoenix-based Najafi Companies; Apollo General Management (not affiliated with Apollo Education Group); and Chicago-based Vistria Group, founded and run by Obama's good friend, Martin Nesbitt. Tony Miller, who served as President Obama's Deputy Secretary of Education from 2009 to 2013, has been tapped to run the University of Phoenix operations.

But the deal may not go through. First of all, shareholders may not approve the sale. Schroders Global Recovery Fund, a British equity group, is Apollo Education's biggest shareholder. Schroders bought its stock when Apollo was worth about $3 billion, probably thinking Apollo's stock price would rise and it would make a killing.

Schroder doesn't want to sell to the private equity groups because it would suffer a huge loss.  The Schroders team said this: "We see the potential for multiple hundreds of percent of upside in Apollo’s stock from current levels over a period of years."  And Andrew Lyddon, Schroders' fund manager, said last January that Apollo Education has "had everything thrown at it, but we think it would be terrible for shareholders at this point if management were to capitulate.”

Earlier this week, the Apollo Education board issued a statement stating that a sale to the consortium "is in the best interests of shareholders" and indicated that it would explore the possibility of selling the University of Phoenix if the sale of Apollo Education doesn't go through. (Apparently, the board can sell the University of Phoenix without shareholder approval.)

I am not a "master of the universe" financial wizard. I can hardly balance my own checkbook. Nevertheless, I doubt whether this sale will ever be finalized. The opposition of the Schroders group may stop it--the folks would take a big haircut if Apollo Education sold out for only about $1 billion.

But apart from this challenge, I think there is a growing awareness that the for-profit college industry is ceasing to be a good investment for private equity groups. People made a killing in this racket a few years ago, but students are becoming more sophisticated than they once were and enrollments are dropping. Moreover, public universities now offer an array of online degree programs that once made the University of Phoenix distinctive; and the public universities usually offer online programs at much more affordable prices than the for-profits.

It would not surprise me if Martin Nesbit and his rich hedge-fund cronies decided to back out of their tentative deal to buy Apollo Education Group. And that would be a shame, because that would suck all the air out of a bunch of golden parachutes.

References

Ronald Hansen. Apollo Education sale 'golden parachute' could be worth $22 million to executives. Arizona Republic, March 8, 2016. Accessible at http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2016/03/08/apollo-education-sale-executives-payout-22-million/81483912/

Sarah Jones. Top Apollo Education Investor Urges Board to Resist Takeover. Bloomberg News, January 29, 2016. Accessible at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-29/top-apollo-education-investor-urges-board-to-resist-takeover

Patria Cohen and Chad Bray. University of Phoenix Owner, Apollo Education Group, Will Be Taken Private. New York Times, February 8, 2016. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/09/business/dealbook/apollo-education-group-university-of-phoenix-owner-to-be-taken-private.html

Soyong Kim. Apollo teams with Washington insider for education deal. Reuters, January 12, 2016. Accessible at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-apollo-education-m-a-apollo-global-idUSKCN0UQ23W20160112



 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

4.6 million student debtors are in long-term repayment plans, default rates are up, and President Obama's "best friend" is buying University of Phoenix: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
 Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


The Second Coming
William Butler Yeats

As William Butler Yeats put it, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold." Everywhere, we see signs that the federal student-loan program is on the verge of collapse. And when the loan program collapses, so will American higher education.

Here are some portents of the coming disaster:

Student borrowers are enrolling in long-term repayment plans in record numbers

First, the U.S. Department of Education recently announced that 4.6 million student debtors are enrolled in Income-Driven Repayment plans (IDRs) to pay off their college loans. This is a 48 percent increase since December 2014 and a 140 percent increase since December 2013. 

People in IDRs are obligated to pay on their student loans for 20 or even 25 years, and most are making payments so small that that their loan balances are going up, not down, due to unpaid accumulating interest. In other words, most people in IDRs will never pay off their college loans.

Yet lenient income-based plans are President Obama's chief strategy for addressing the student-loan crisis. As the DOE blog put it,"President Obama has fought hard to make college more affordable and to help borrowers keep their student loan payments manageable." And thanks to those efforts, DOE continues, students in the new IDRs never have to pay more than 10 percent of their monthly income on your federal student loans."   Indeed, borrowers who are  "temporarily unemployed" don't have to pay anything. "After all, as DOE cheerily pointed out, "10 percent of zero dollars is zero dollars."

But of course, 20-year and 25-year repayment plans are crazy, especially when we consider that most people don't sign up for these plans until their backs are against the wall. Remember Brenda Butler, who entered a 25-year repayment plan 20 years after graduating from college? She won't be finished with her student loans until 2037, 42 years after acquiring her degree!

The Feds are garnishing wages and Social Security Checks; and default rates are rising

Meanwhile, the government garnished $176 million in wages from student-loan defaulters during the last three months of 2015. And the government garnishes Social Security checks of 155,000 elderly student-loan defaulters. 

And despite governmental assurances to the contrary, student-loan default rates are rising. According to a recent analysis by Jason Deslisle, 20 percent of all borrowers with loans due are in default. A Brookings Institution report noted that almost half of  a recent cohort of student borrowers who attended for-profit colleges defaulted within 5 years

And let's not forget the nine million people in the repayment phase of their loans who aren't making payments because they've obtained economic hardship deferments or some other deferment from making loan payments.  Those folks are counted as defaulters, but in reality, most of them will never pay back their loans. 

Law schools are in trouble

And then there are the law schools, some of which are in real trouble. Over the last few years, law schools began behaving like pirates, raising tuition rates to insane levels even as the market for lawyers imploded. Now they are seeing  a 20 percent decline in enrollment applications; and many have lowered their admission standards just to get warm bodies in their classrooms. A typical law student now graduates with $140,000 in debt; and many have almost no prospect of getting jobs in the legal field.

The for-profit college sector: The barbarian are at the gates

Finally, in the private sector, the barbarians are at the gates. Corinthian College, which had 350,000 students or former students as of last year, filed for bankruptcy; and thousands of its victims have filed claims to have their student loans forgiven. The Department of Education brokered a sale of some Corinthian campuses to a company affiliated with Educational Credit Management Corporation, the rapacious college-loan debt collector, just to maintain some semblance of order in the chaos of the Corinthian collapse.

Apollo Education Group, owner of the University of Phoenix, is in real trouble. Enrollments at UP dropped from a a peak of 475,000 in 2010 to less than half that number in 2015. Apollo's stock, which once sold for more than $80 a share, is now trading below 8 bucks.

Apollo is in negotiations to sell out to a group of private equity firms, including Visteria Group. Visteria was founded by Martin Nesbitt, described as President Obama's "best friend." In fact, Nesbitt was treasurer for both of Obama presidential campaigns; and he heads the Obama Foundation that is planning the Obama Presidential Library. 

If the deal goes through, Tony Miller, former Deputy Secretary of Education in the Obama administration and Martin Nesbitt's business partner, will become Apollo Education Group's new Board Chairman.  Very cozy!

"The ceremony of innocence is drowned."

To borrow a phrase from Yeats, "The ceremony of innocence is drowned" in American higher education.  Colleges and universities were once honored as the guardians of our civilization's ideals, the places where young people came to grow and learn, and to develop the civic and moral values that are indispensable to maintaining a healthy and vibrant society.

No more.  Arrogant college presidents, greedy profiteers, and mindless bureaucrats now control our once beloved universities. The best of these characters "lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." 

All of this craziness is paid for by federal student-loan money. And millions of college-loan borrowers are strangling in debt they can never pay off. This cannot go on forever.

President Obama and Martin Nesbitt



Anthony W. Miller official portrait.jpg
Tony Miller, former Deputy Secretary of Education
and soon-to-be Board Chairman of Apollo Education Group
References

Jillian Berman. Americans just had $17 million in wages garnished by the government due to unpaid student loans. Marketwatch.com, March 22, 2016. Accessible at http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-government-just-garnished-176-million-in-wages-because-of-unpaid-student-loans-2016-03-21

Ronald J. Hansen. Apollo Education, parent company of University of Phoenix, to go prvate at $1.1 billion deal. Arizona Republic, February 9, 2016. Accessible at http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2016/02/08/apollo-education-to-go-private-in-11b-deal/79998782/

Jason Delisle. @usedgov latest data out today shows student loan defaults just hit another record high, 20% of those w/ loans due. Mhttps://twitter.com/delislealleges/status/710539989256429568

Matt Sessa. Student Aid Posts Updated Reports to FSA Data Center. Department of Education, March 17, 2016. Accessible at https://www.nasfaa.org/news-item/7943/3-17_Federal_Student_Aid_Posts_Updated_Reports_to_FSA_Data_Center

Dan Primack. Obama's 'best friend' raises millions for private equity fund. Fortune Magazine, August 11, 2014. Accessible at http://fortune.com/2014/08/11/obamas-best-friend-raises-millions-for-private-equity-fund/

Patricia Cohen and Chad Bray. University of Phoenix Owner, Apollo Education Group, To Be Taken Private. New York Times, February 9, 2016. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/09/business/dealbook/apollo-education-group-university-of-phoenix-owner-to-be-taken-private.html?

No, You Won't Be Arrested for Falling Behind On Your Student Loans. US. Department of Eduation Official Bog, April, 2016. Accessible at http://blog.ed.gov/2016/04/no-you-wont-be-arrested-for-falling-behind-on-your-student-loans/