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Private Equity Firm Acquires Spartan College Of Aeronautics And Technology
By Daniel Baxter

January 8, 2013 - Sterling Partners, a leading growth-oriented private equity firm with approximately $5 billion of assets under management, has acquired Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology, 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 Company 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. It exemplifies Sterling Partners’ focus on investing in education institutions that provide excellent outcomes for their students,” said Jason Rosenberg, a Sterling Partners principal.

“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,” Rosenberg said.

“Although I was approached by several firms, we chose Sterling Partners because of its deep experience in building top-quality institutions,” said Gibson, who has been Spartan’s president and CEO since April 2007. “Sterling will help us develop Spartan’s infrastructure more quickly and help us expand to new regions, while continuing to contribute to the increased global demand for aviation and nondestructive testing technicians.”



Before his arrival at Spartan, Gibson was president of Nashville Auto Diesel College. He was a founding partner and executive vice president of Spartan Aviation Industries, the parent of Spartan College, from December 1996 to August 2002. Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology aka S.C.A.T. (nicknamed Spartan and initially named Spartan School of Aeronautics) is a private college in Tulsa, Oklahoma that offers training in aviation and aircraft maintenance. Originally established to augment sales of Spartan Aircraft Company, it outlived its parent company and continues to train pilots and mechanics into the 21st Century. According to the school web site, it has graduated over 90,000 aircraft technicians and pilots.

The main campus is adjacent to Tulsa International Airport, with another campus primarily used for flight training at Richard Lloyd Jones Jr. Airport. Spartan offers an Associate of Applied Science degree and Bachelor of Science/Aviation Technology Management. It also offers a 30 month pilot program, which includes a pilot license. While in the Pilot Program, a student can complete the required hours of flying time while learning to fly.
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