Blackboard Inc. has acquired one of the many companies offering emergency-notification services to colleges, agreeing to buy the NTI Group for about $182-million. The NTI Group sells Connect-ED, which is installed at more than 200 college campuses, enabling them to send messages to users via a variety of methods including cellphones, e-mail, or landline in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.
The move gives Blackboard, best known for its software to deliver syllabi and other course materials online, a firm footing in the emergency-notification area, which has grown quickly in recent years. Hurricane Katrina, the shootings at Virginia Tech, and other recent tragedies affecting campuses have led college leaders to look for better ways to transmit safety information to students and professors quickly.
Blackboard will pay $132-million in cash and $50-million in stock for the NTI Group, and it has promised to pay an additional $17-million if the company, which will become a subsidiary of Blackboard, meets set growth targets in the next two years. The price is about the same as what Blackboard paid in 2006 for WebCT, which had been a competitor in course-management software (The Chronicle, March 1, 2006).
"This company has higher revenue and stronger growth than WebCT" did at that time, Michael L. Chasen, president and chief executive of Blackboard, said in an interview on Monday.
The acquisition was approved by both companies' boards of directors and is expected to be completed in the next couple of months, pending regulatory approval.
Mr. Chasen said Blackboard planned to integrate features from Connect-ED into its course-management products. That means professors could use the service to flash a message to all the students in a class to announce a last-minute cancellation, said Mr. Chasen.
"Having the ability to do mass messagings is becoming more important on a campus," he added.
Blackboard will not change the management of NTI Group, said Mr. Chasen. "Nothing is changing for their clients," he added. "If anything, NTI will have more resources to continue to build out and serve their clients."
Natasha Rabe, chief business officer for NTI Group, said officials from the company had spent the day calling clients to inform them of the deal and to assure them that they would still be dealing with the same customer-service team.
The NTI Group also sells similar notification services to elementary and secondary schools, state and local governments, and the military. "We've got over 17,000 active school and government sites," said Ms. Rabe.