Bertelsmann SE, Europe’s largest media company, said it’s buying U.S. online-course provider Relias Learning, making good on promises to fuel growth with investments in education.

The Guetersloh, Germany-based company is acquiring Relias from private-equity firm Vista Equity Partners for an amount “in the mid-hundreds of millions” of U.S. dollars, according to a statement from Bertelsmann today.

Relias Learning is Bertelsmann’s biggest U.S. purchase in more than 15 years and follows the company’s pledges to boost revenue through education and media content purchases. Education is set to become a 1 billion-euro ($1.27 billion) revenue business for Bertelsmann by 2018 and the company has 3 billion euros to spend on acquisitions in coming years, chief executive Thomas Rabe said in March.

“The acquisition of Relias Learning is a major step on the way to making the education business a third mainstay of business for Bertelsmann alongside media and services,” Rabe said in the statement.

Relias Learning, based in Cary, North Carolina, has more than 4,000 institutional clients and offers 2,500 online courses, such as those aimed at senior-care and health-care workers, Bertelsmann said. The company employs almost 300 people.

Bertelsmann, which is closely held by Germany’s Mohn family, owns assets ranging from broadcaster RTL Group SA to music-rights company BMG and book publisher Penguin Random House. Net income rose 42 percent to 870 million euros last year.

This month, Bertelsmann agreed to buy full control of German publisher Gruner & Jahr, ending a 45-year-old partnership with the Jahr family as part of an acceleration of its digital strategy.

Companies have been gravitating towards e-learning groups, evidenced by a spree of acquisitions. On Aug. 21, Skillsoft agreed to buy SumTotal, a human resources training program group. Before that, in July, Security Innovation picked up Safelight, which helps companies develop security education programs. 

For more coverage on e-learning, see "E-Learning Providers Eager to Expand."

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