VSS vaults into a website deal

Veronis Suhler Stevenson has acquired a majority stake in Vault.com Inc., which provides online information on undergraduate and graduate programs, job listings, company reviews and message boards highlighting more than 30 industries.

The deal was valued between $60 million and $85 million. Vault’s three founders all rolled over a chunk of their proceeds for an ownership stake, as did some other key employees, says VSS Managing Director Trent Hickman. Vault’s new CEO, Erik Sorenson, the former president of MSNBC, also invested in the deal, which Hickman said is typical for a VSS transaction. Rounding out the pool of investors is Ledgemont Capital, a boutique merchant bank.

VSS, which invests media, communications, education and information industries, paid for the deal using capital from the $1.3 billion VSS Communications Partners III. The liquidity flowed to the company’s founders and shareholders, including American Lawyer Media, Ingram Book Group and Dun and Bradstreet.

Known for building companies through roll-ups, VSS has already developed a target list of Vault add-on acquisitions over the next four to five years. Going forward, VSS plans to integrate more video content onto the site in the form of video resumes, career development workshops and interview scenarios.

“Virtually all the top law schools, top business schools and top universities in the country subscribe to the site,” Hickman says. It currently has between 40,000 and 50,000 individual paid subscribers, not including institutional and corporate subscriptions. —Joshua Payne