May 31, 2024 - Business

Vista Equity writes off PluralSight value, after $3.5 billion buyout

Illustration of an "IOU" stamp on a one hundred dollar bill showing a frowning Benjamin Franklin.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Vista Equity Partners has written off the entire equity value of its investment in tech learning platform Pluralsight, three years after taking it private for $3.5 billion, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: This is an example of leverage catching up with a leveraged buyout.

  • One source says that the Utah-based company's financials have improved, with a around 26% EBITDA margins in 2023, but not enough to service nearly $1.3 billion of debt that was issued when interest rates were lower.
  • It's also a company whose future could be dimmed by advances in artificial intelligence, since some of the developer skills it teaches are becoming automated.

Catch up quick: Vista agreed to buy the company in late 2020 for $20.26 per share, representing a 25% premium to its 30-day trading average, despite a lack of profits.

  • Pluralsight has since gone through multiple rounds of layoffs, and last month replaced co-founder and CEO Aaron Skonnard with former Avantax CEO Chris Walters.

What to watch: Vista's negotiations with lenders, including Blue Owl and BlackRock, and if it results in the firm retaining any equity in Pluralsight going forward.

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