Follett Bought by Private Investors Group
Follett Corporation, Follett Higher Education and Follett ACCESS have been bought by a group of private investors led by Jefferson River Capital, a private investment company controlled by the James family. Tony James is former executive vice-chairman, president and CEO of the Blackstone Group and chairman of Costco.
Todd Litzsinger, CEO and chairman of the board of Follett, said that Follett Higher Education "has championed a crucial role in the collegiate retail experience across 1,100 campuses, supplying course material solutions and branded school spirit merchandise to customers. On behalf of the Follett family and shareholders, I would like to thank all our employees, publishing partners, general merchandise vendors, institution partners and campus communities for the distinct privilege of shaping generations of students and institutions over the years. Our family-owned company has celebrated alongside our customers and is extremely proud of the successes we have achieved together. We are excited to hand off the baton to another group of families who believe as strongly as we do in supporting the post-secondary educational journey extending the Follett Higher Education legacy into the future."
David Wittels, president of Jefferson River Capital, said, "The James family and Jefferson River Capital are honored to be entrusted by the Follett family to continue the stewardship of this company and its important mission in higher education. The cost of higher education has been growing at far too fast a rate in the U.S. and Canada over the past few decades; we are very supportive and appreciative of Follett's role in lowering the cost of course materials and in doing so have widespread impact on the affordability of higher education for students and families."
Follett has been a major company in new and used textbooks, publishing, library services, retail and wholesale bookstore services, K-12 and college bookstore and course materials. In the past year, the company has sold some of its businesses, including Baker & Taylor and Follett School Solutions. It manages more than 1,600 campus bookstores, both bricks-and-mortar and virtual.
Founded in 1873, Follett has been owned by the Follett family throughout its history. Follett traces its beginnings to the founding in 1873 of a used bookstore in Wheaton, Ill., by Charles M. Barnes, who later left the company and moved to New York City and teamed up with G. Clifford Noble to open a store in Manhattan, the first Barnes & Noble.
With the change in ownership, Emmanuel Kolady has been named CEO of Follett and Ryan Petersen has been named president of Follett Higher Education. Kolady previously served as senior v-p, head of stores for the eastern half of CVS Retail.
Kolady said, "The education industry has experienced much disruption over the past few years, and I envision Follett's role to continue to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers and business partners to ensure academic success. Follett's resilience has clearly proven its value to institutions, faculty and students and our commitment is to continue to innovate as the campus retailer, supporting higher education, online and in-store and meet students where they are."
Petersen was formerly v-p of strategy and development at VitalSource Technologies, which he co-founded. He said, "I've spent my entire professional career addressing the inequality of opportunity and learning outcomes from the cost of course materials, and I am ecstatic for our Follett team to take a quantum leap forward for affordability. Follett serves as the nexus for course materials for the higher education community and we are perfectly positioned to work with publishers, OER foundations, faculty, students, and institutions, to drive affordability, leveraging our digital and rental Follett ACCESS programs."
The company said that the Follett family "will continue to drive education through advocacy with future projects. The next steps for the Follett Family legacy will be to enhance its effects with future family business education and the Follett Educational Foundation."