Harcourt Achieve jumps into K-12 math arena with acquisition of Saxon Publishers

Harcourt Achieve jumps into K-12 math arena with acquisition of Saxon Publishers

K-12 supplemental instructional materials publisher Harcourt Achieve (Austin, Texas) last week agreed to acquire alternative K-12 math publisher Saxon Publishers (Norman, Okla.). Terms of the deal were undisclosed.

Saxon was represented by merchant bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson (New York). The transaction is expected to close within a month, pending regulatory approvals by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The deal immediately propels Harcourt Achieve into the second-largest discipline, math, in the K-12 arena. Harcourt Achieve through its Steck-Vaughn and Rigby imprints has focused on literacy–reading and language arts–and a line of adult GED materials. “Harcourt Achieve has very little math, so it will fill a big, needed space in their product portfolio,” Julie McGee, CEO of Harcourt Achieve, Professional and Trade, told EM.

While the deal is “too small to move the needle at Reed (Harcourt’s parent),” it will add heft to Harcourt Achieve, which has suffered declining revenue in recent years, research analyst Michael Nathanson of Sanford C. Bernstein (New York) told EM. Saxon generates about $80 million a year, according to EM estimates. Harcourt Achieve, the third-largest print-based supplemental publisher behind McGraw-Hill Learning Group (Columbus, Ohio) and Scholastic (New York), generates about $174 million a year, according to EM estimates.

Details about integration remain to be worked out, but Gerard Smith, president and CEO of Saxon, will stay on for awhile, McGee said. Saxon has about 250 employees.

The Saxon Way

Founded in 1981, Saxon is noted for its skills-based Saxon Math, which is almost as much of a cause among proponents as a textbook curriculum marketed to public and private schools and to home-schooled children.

While it competes in state textbook adoptions, the non-traditional program is rarely chosen over the traditional basal textbooks of the big four publishers–Pearson Education, McGraw-Hill, Harcourt School and Houghton Mifflin. However, it frequently butts heads with Everyday Mathematics from McGraw-Hill Learning Group, which is at the opposite end of the pedagogical spectrum.

Saxon also publishes pre-K-third grade phonics programs.

Harcourt Achieve plans to beef up marketing efforts to help clear up some of the negative preconceptions that swirl around Saxon Math, which educators either champion or decry. Focus groups with educators who had never used the program and viewed it negatively produced converts, Harcourt Achieve president and CEO Tim McEwen told EM. “We think there’s a perception issue there that with our sales and marketing we can turn around,” he said.

Harcourt Achieve: 512 343-8227; www.harcourtachieve.com; Saxon Publishers: 800 284-7019; www.saxonpublishers.com

COPYRIGHT 2004 RR Bowker

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