Riverside Continues Investment is Asia with First Acquisition in Korea August 11, 2008
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Global Private Equity Firm Strengthens Franchising and Education Specialization
(August 11, 2008) – The Riverside Company has received nothing but gold stars on its latest report card after acquiring Wiz Korea, its first Korean acquisition and second platform company in Asia. Riverside’s first Asian acquisition was the January 2008 purchase of Shinsouki, the largest parking lot operator in Niigata City, Japan. With the acquisition of Wiz Korea, Riverside further strengthens its experience in two industry specialties – franchising and education.
Focusing on students from two to seven years of age, Wiz Korea operates the largest learning-oriented preschool education franchise in Korea with 53 franchises and three company-owned locations, including 52 within Korea and four located internationally. The organization’s headquarters in Bundang, Korea on the perimeter of Seoul contains a company-owned school and also serves as the site for marketing and training franchisees.
“Riverside is excited to partner with Wiz Korea, which we see as a perfect match given Riverside’s investment expertise in franchising as well as education and training,” said Stuart Baxter, Riverside Managing Partner. “Riverside has acquired four franchising firms and 10 education and training firms. These are two industry segments where Riverside has developed institutional knowledge that supports our global portfolios.”
Riverside’s Jay Kim, Managing Director in Seoul, the firm’s newest office, said that the firm found Wiz Korea appealing for many reasons. “Riverside was drawn to Wiz Korea based on its highly successful and profitable franchisee network, which is providing superb educational and emotional development programs to toddlers,” Kim said. “Parents sharing their positive experiences with others has been a powerful way for Wiz Korea to build its brand and continue its growth.”
Wiz Korea’s curriculum centers around play-based learning, which strengthens toddlers’ emotional and intelligent quotients through technical skill set development, and their social quotient through learning cognitive abilities via interaction with peers. The curriculum includes foreign language training (English and Chinese), art, music, mathematics, physical education, yoga, cooking and science. Wiz Korea has a centralized research and development function called Wiz Emotional Play Institute, which uses the Bundang school as a test site for new programs developed by this division.
“We are looking forward to the partnership with Riverside and are anxious to capitalize on the firm’s resources to help us grow through brand extensions and geographic expansion overseas,” said James Jaehwan Lee, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Wiz Korea. “We also expect to enjoy growth by touching children’s lives through new education centers in Japan, China and Vietnam.”
Wiz Korea marks the 20th acquisition for Riverside thus far in 2008. Riverside Asia Fund I (“RAF I”) provided the equity for the transaction. Working with Baxter and Kim on the transaction from Riverside were Ashok Reddy, Associate, and Jonathan Shin, Analyst. MVP Partners served as a buy-side advisor for Riverside on the transaction, with Kim and Shin as legal counsel.
The Riverside Company
The Riverside Company is the largest global private equity firm focused on the smaller end of the middle market (“SEMM”) and is one of the industry’s most experienced leveraged buyout investors. Riverside specializes in investing in premier SEMM companies (those valued up to $200 million) and partners with strong management teams to build companies through acquisitions and value-added growth. Since 1988, the firm has invested in 196 transactions with a total enterprise value of $3.4 billion. Its current portfolio in the U.S., Europe and Asia numbers 65, with combined annual sales of $3 billion, EBITDA of $468 million and more than 14,000 employees. Riverside offers the resources to complete acquisitions smoothly and in as little as 45 days - thanks to its sizeable pool of capital under management (more than $2 billion in nine funds), over 170 professionals in 17 offices (Amsterdam, Atlanta, Brussels, Budapest, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Los Angeles, Madrid, Munich, New York, Prague, San Francisco, Seoul, Stockholm, Tokyo and Warsaw), and long-standing relationships with partner lenders. Five of seven of the firm’s mature vintages are currently top quartile, and the firm’s investors include the world’s leading pension funds, endowments, funds-of-funds, insurance companies and banks. Please visit www.riversidecompany.com and www.riversideeurope.com for more information.
Founded in 2003 in Bundang, Korea, Wiz Korea oversees more than 60 franchisees under the brand Wiz Island, an international school dedicated to teaching preschool aged children between two and seven years old. Franchises are located in Korea, Vietnam, the United States and China. The curriculum encourages the growth of children’s emotional, social and moral quotients by teaching children to manage their emotions and understand the emotions of others. The playtime activities include Gabe (design), board games, music classes, art classes, gym, yoga, reading projects, clay molding and a variety of other mentally and emotionally stimulating subjects. Please visit www.wizkorea.co.kr for more information.