TH Lee beefs up TMT deal-making with ex-Blackboard CEO

  • Jay Bhatt joins Boston firm as managing director
  • Working on THL’s Media, Information Services & Technology Group
  • Bhatt was exec at two Providence Equity Partners portfolio companies

TH Lee’s recent hiring of the ex-CEO of Blackboard Inc reflects the Boston firm’s commitment to focus on technology and software deals, according to a person familiar with the firm.

Jay Bhatt, 47, who led Blackboard from 2012 to early 2016, also led Progress Software as CEO and was a senior executive at Autodesk. Both Progress Software and Autodesk are now publicly traded.

Bhatt has now moved over as a new managing director in TH Lee’s media, information services and technology group.

In many cases, ex-CEOs help beef up operating company expertise at firms. But in TH Lee’s case, the firm brought Bhatt into the fold for its core investment team as one of 21 managing directors listed on the firm’s website.

Bhatt is seen as a high-caliber executive with insights into some of the hottest deal types around software infrastructure, horizontal and vertical enterprise applications and SaaS technologies, a source said.

Scott Sperling, THL co-president, in a statement cited Bhatt’s “extensive operating and leadership experience in the IT sector.”

A TH Lee spokesperson declined to comment on the hiring of Bhatt beyond a Nov. 10 news release. Bhatt was not made available for an interview.

In a statement, Bhatt said TH Lee has a “compelling track record” in the technology and media group with portfolio companies such as Black Knight Financial Services and Ceridian.

Providence Equity Partners acquired Blackboard, a software company that makes learning tools for high school and college students, in 2011 by taking the company private for about $1.64 billion plus $130 million in debt. In 2015, Providence put the company on the block for $3 billion, according to a Reuters report. The company remains a portfolio company of Providence Equity.

Also in 2015, Blackboard agreed to buy Schoolwires. Terms weren’t disclosed. Earlier this year, Blackboard took Higher One Holdings private in a deal valued at $260 million.

Providence Equity also lists Autotrader as one of its portfolio companies. Bhatt worked at Autotrader from there as well.

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Photo of former Blackboard CEO Jay Bhatt. Credit: Mona Shield Payne