Learndirect accuse PeoplePlus of ‘dirty tricks’ after entire senior executive team jumps ship

The entire senior executive team at Learndirect Apprenticeships Ltd (LDA) along with 18 other senior employees have today quit to work for PeoplePlus Group, the firm that had only recently had a purchase offer rejected.

The unexpected mass exodus of 22 key staff has been met with a furious response from the Learndirect Group, calling it “dirty tricks”, something PeoplePlus “absolutely deny.”

As reported exclusively by FE Week, Learndirect had been working for weeks on a sale to PeoplePlus Group, a division of Staffline Group, a listed company and one of the biggest recruitment firms in the UK.

PeoplePlus undertook several weeks of due diligence on a purchase of the entire Learndirect Group, but FE Week understands the talks ended after their offer to only take ownership of Learndirect Apprenticeships Ltd was rejected.

Early last week Learndirect, owned by the private equity firm Lloyds Development Capital (LDC), then turned to entrepreneur Wayne Janse van Rensburg and a deal was done to take ownership of the whole Learndirect Group.

Mr Janse van Rensburg is the Managing Director of the Stonebridge College Group, which supplies Learndirect with a Virtual Learning Environment known as PEARL.

Stonebridge College Group includes Dimensions Training Solution (DTS), a training provider that Mr Janse van Rensburg purchased in 2015, and the ESFA approved the change of ownership for LDA on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers.

Mr Janse van Rensburg, who has only been owner of the Learndirect Group for a week, this evening told FE Week: “Colleagues that don’t share our vision and values, placing learners and employers at the heart of our provision have no place in my business.”

But a senior employee at the Learndirect Group, that did not wish to be named, went further, saying: “this is pretty dirty tricks from PeoplePlus, having spent several weeks in our data room [during the due diligence phase of the sale process].

“The 22 staff that resigned today can expect a letter from our lawyer stating that they would be in breach of contract to leave without seeing out their notice period, which would allow for an orderly handover.”

“The letter will also remind them of the non-compete clause in their contract of employment at Learndirect Apprenticeship Ltd, they added.”

Simon Rouse, managing director at PeoplePlus group told FE Week that the 22 that resigned from LDA today would be joining PeoplePlus next week and any claim of “dirty tricks” was “conspiratorial nonsense.”

He went on to say: “We went into this to do a deal [to buy Learndirect] in good faith. We were not able to make that deal work after we made an offer and they decided not to proceed with that offer and went with an alternative buyer. The managers at LDA have decided that they don’t have confidence that the new business has a future for them and we are delighted that they have come to join us.

“This idea that there was some conspiracy or dirty tricks, we absolutely deny that.”

The 22 LDA staff that jumped ship to PeoplePlus include the managing director, sales and marketing director, quality director and  performance director.

It is understood that Andy Palmer, the former chief executive of LDA, is not among those to have left and is currently interim chair at the Learndirect Group.