Justice Asks for Info from Blackboard

E-learning company Blackboard said in a regulatory filing today that the Justice Department has requested information related to its recent acquisition of Angel Learning and its effect on competition.

The District-based firm announced the $95 million purchase of Indianapolis rival Angel on May 6, and the deal closed May 11.

Blackboard provides software to universities that lets students register for classes, do coursework and view lectures online. It has been expanding into the markets for high schools, middle schools and elementary schools as well as corporations.

It had about 57 percent of the higher education market, according to the 2008 Campus Connect survey, while Angel had about 7 percent.

Josh Bersin, president of research firm Bersin & Associates, said he doesn't see reason for antitrust concerns. The market of providing software to higher-education institutions is an easy one to enter because universities are always looking for cheaper products, he said. More are turning to free, open-source programs as well.

"There are tons and tons of little companies building tools like this all the time," Bersin said.
Blackboard is giving the Justice Department information "on a voluntary basis" and is "confident that the acquisition of ANGEL Learning was compliant with all applicable antitrust requirements," Matthew Small, Blackboard's chief business officer, said in a statement.

By Terri Rupar  |  May 27, 2009; 4:04 PM ET
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