The £7.5m deal will see the school join more than 90 other private nurseries and independent schools under the umbrella of Asquith Court, a £66m secondary buy-out led by Peter Aughterson and backed by West Private Equity.
BDO’s corporate finance team, led by Peter Hemmington, carried out an auction process for the school, which with more than 1,000 pupils, is one of the largest privately-owned independent day schools in the UK.
The sale demonstrated the growing enthusiasm of venture capitalists for the education sector, who see considerable potential for growth in the area.
‘For a relatively small deal there was a phenomenal amount of interest from the private equity houses,’ Hemmington said.
BDO was already the school’s auditor, but following a beauty parade, the firm was brought in by the school’s family owners to handle the sale – the owners were essentially looking for an exit from the business as there was not an obvious succession route.
The prep school also has three nursery schools attached to it, catering for an age range of two and a half through to 13.
Downsend is the second recent deal in the education sector for BDO – it was lead adviser on the £31m management buyout at nursery business Just Learning, again backed by private equity.
‘There are some big opportunities there,’ Hemmington said.
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