Guardian Early Learning Group 


Tom Hardwick

Wolseley Private Equity sold its investment in Guardian Early Learning Group, Australia's leading fully integrated childcare service provider, to Navis Capital Partners, in September 2013.

The Guardian Early Learning Group portfolio grew to 69 centres, predominantly in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, under three business units: Guardian Early Learning Centres, Guardian Childcare Management and Jigsaw Corporate Childcare. It provided care for more than 8,500 families with more than 5,700 licensed places.

Wolseley initially invested in Guardian through its Fund II in January 2011 believing the childcare and the early learning sector had strong growth prospects as it had become increasingly fragmented and was facing capital pressures. Richard Burrows, Guardian Chair and Wolseley Director said "When we invested in Guardian our objective was to grow the business and build on the existing platform. Wolseley led the acquisition and transaction processes to substantially evolve Guardian into one of Australia's leading independently owned early education businesses, with a significant footprint in the corporate childcare space."

Working with CEO and Founder Tom Hardwick, Wolseley expanded Guardian's senior management team and delivered a strategy of incremental organic growth and step growth through the acquisition of 21 centres, including 10 owned by Jigsaw Corporate Childcare, Australia's leading provider of corporate early learning centres. During Wolseley's investment, employee numbers rose from 720 to 1700. Together with Tom Hardwick, Wolseley created a fully-integrated business, unique in Australia, that spans all aspects of childcare and early learning services and drove compound annual revenue growth of 45 per cent, tripled group profit in two-and-a-half years and increased occupancy rates.

The sale of Guardian represents a strong result in the current market and a result of consistent with Wolseley's track record, providing a 2.3X return and 41% IRR.

Wolseley Private Equity was represented on the Board of Guardian Early Learning Group by Richard Burrows (Chairman), Michael Murphy (Director), and James Todd (Director).