Cerberus-led investor group backs American Achievement Corporation

An investor group led by Cerberus Capital Management has made an investment in American Achievement Corporation, a provider of school recognition products and commencement photography.

An investor group led by Cerberus Capital Management has made an investment in American Achievement Corporation, a provider of school recognition products and commencement photography. No financial terms were disclosed. Prudential Capital Partners and Onex Falcon Investment Advisors LLC will retain a “meaningful” minority equity stake in AAC.


American Achievement Corporation® (“AAC” or the “Company”), the leading digital retailer and premier provider of school recognition products and commencement photography, announced today that it has implemented a new ownership structure supported by an investor group comprised of the Company’s longstanding financial partners, and has appointed Ryan Esko as Chief Executive Officer.

The investor group, led by an affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. (“Cerberus”), has become majority equity holders in AAC, provided a significant capital investment, and reduced the Company’s annual debt service. As a result, AAC has a strengthened financial foundation to invest in its products, customers, and the communities it serves. Prudential Capital Partners and Onex Falcon Investment Advisors, LLC will retain a meaningful minority equity stake in AAC.

“AAC has become the preeminent commencement services company through its market-leading brands and expansive portfolio of personalized products,” said Joseph Naccarato, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Credit Officer of Cerberus Business Finance. “Ryan brings tremendous strategic and operational expertise and we are excited for him to join the great team at AAC. With his leadership and the Company’s strengthened foundation, AAC is well-positioned to further invest in and grow its business for the long-term.”

Mr. Esko has a proven track record leading consumer, fashion, and retail companies to improvements in sales, customer satisfaction, and profits. He has been an executive at companies ranging from mid-sized businesses to corporations with over $6 billion in revenues. He has also successfully served as full-time or interim Chief Executive Officer of a number of consumer businesses including Kellwood (a wholesaler and retailer with over 10 brands including VINCE, Rebecca Taylor, XOXO, Baby Phat, among others), one of the largest European intimate apparel wholesale and retail companies, the Smokey Bones Restaurant chain, and a leading toy company. Mr. Esko has also served as an Operating Partner, Board Member, Chairman, and Operating Advisor to various private equity-backed consumer and retail businesses. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed the Executive Scholar program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Ryan Esko, Chief Executive Officer of AAC, added: “Today’s announcement with our investors is a significant milestone in AAC’s journey that will fuel our next phase of growth. I’m honored to join the Company and this talented team at this exciting time.”

This new ownership structure follows the consensual dismissal of bankruptcy cases that were filed in respect of the Company, its subsidiaries and its ultimate corporate parent earlier this year.

About American Achievement Corporation
American Achievement Corporation is the world’s largest Collegiate and High School commencement services company, leading the industry in digital product innovation by helping students and their families celebrate the most meaningful moments in their lives. Operating under the Balfour®, Iconic Group®, GradImages®, University Photo®, Gaspard®, ArtCarved®, KeepSake® and Taylor Publishing Company®, the Company provides personalized products such as class jewelry and apparel, yearbooks and commercial printing, graduation cap and gowns, announcement products and photography through digital marketing technology, personal in-school deliveries and customized school assortments. To learn more visit Balfour.com, the destination for Graduation products, and GradImages.com, the industry’s largest commencement photography platform.

About Cerberus
Founded in 1992, Cerberus is a global leader in alternative investing with approximately $50 billion in assets across complementary credit, private equity, and real estate strategies. We invest across the capital structure where our integrated investment platforms and proprietary operating capabilities create an edge to improve performance and drive long-term value. Our tenured teams have experience working collaboratively across asset classes, sectors, and geographies to seek strong risk-adjusted returns for our investors. For more information about our people and platforms, visit us at www.cerberus.com.