CHICAGO--Sterling Partners, a growth-oriented private equity firm with approximately $5 billion of assets under management, has acquired Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology (Tulsa, OK), a prominent aviation-maintenance school for training pilots, aviation technicians and nondestructive testing (NDT) professionals. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Spartan, a bachelor’s degree-granting institution, has graduated approximately 90,000 alumni from all 50 states and 62 foreign nations since its founding in 1928. Spartan graduates are highly sought after by the aviation and heavy maintenance industries to address the unmet need for trained professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 60,000 trained technicians will be needed to fill new and replacement jobs in the U.S. airline industry between 2010 and 2020. Sterling purchased the company from majority owners John A. Walker, Blaine Walker and Justin Walker. Spartan president and CEO Jeremy Gibson will maintain an ownership stake in the business and will continue in his post. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada provided senior debt financing for the acquisition.
“We believe Spartan is a clear leader in the aviation and NDT higher education space, with a decades-long reputation for high-quality education and a very strong job placement record," says Jason Rosenberg, a Sterling Partners principal. "It exemplifies Sterling Partners’ focus on investing in education institutions that provide excellent outcomes for their students. Spartan students get great jobs, and there will be a significant shortage of aviation technicians, pilots and nondestructive testing professionals in this country and abroad. Spartan stands uniquely qualified to help meet the needs of the industry by continuing to produce skilled graduates. We look forward to partnering with Spartan CEO Jeremy Gibson to continue to build Spartan and help meet the growing needs of the industry.”