Equity group buys Excelligence

On the heels of a successful 2005, Excelligence Learning Corp. is being acquired by an affiliate of Thoma Cressey Equity Partners for $125 million. The transaction, subject to approval by Excelligence’s stockholders, is expected to close in the fourth quarter. At that point, the Monterey, CA-based Excelligence will become a private company.

Excelligence’s management, including CEO Ron Elliott, will continue to operate the business under its current name and operating structure. A manufacturer/marketer of toys, learning resources, and supplies for schools, day-care centers, and other youth-related facilities, Excelligence operates two divisions. Its Early Childhood division includes toys merchant SmarterKids.com and the Discount School Supply and Early Childhood Manufacturers’ Direct catalogs. Its Elementary School segment offers fundraising programs for schools.

Excelligence grew its revenue nearly 10% last year, to a record $132.7 million. Net income soared 180%, to $3.6 million.

Excelligence is “a very strong brand with 40 years of successful merchandising innovations,” says Mike Grant, managing director for New York-based strategic consulting firm Winterberry Group, which provided business diligence advice to Thoma Cressey. “And for any cataloger or multichannel marketer, that’s one of the linchpins of success.”