Barry O'Callaghan is an Irish businessman, former Chairman and CEO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), and the Chairman of Education Media and Publishing Group (EMPG), the Cayman Island holding company for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
EMPGI (Education Media and Publishing Group International) is a private international education company headquartered in Ireland with operations throughout the globe and headed by Barry O’Callaghan founder of Riverdeep and the architect behind the creation of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the world’s largest K-12 educational publisher. EMPGI is also the parent company of RISE Global and RISE China.
EMPGI comprises an Irish-based education team as well as operating businesses in China, India, Vietnam, Korea, and MENA. The Company’s China operation, RISE China, is amongst the most successful global education businesses launched over the last 5 years. Within 4 years RISE China has created a highly profitable business by developing a unique technology-based approach to teaching children English. It has over 135 learning centres throughout mainland China currently delivering tuition to 35,000 students, is growing at approximately 45 per cent per annum with over 70% student retention rates and employs 1,500 people. The RISE China story is one of outstanding enterprise value creation. RISE Global is currently establishing similar businesses in Vietnam, Korea and MENA. The Company’s operation in India, S Chand Harcourt, comprises a content development hub of c.250 developers in Delhi which has successfully localised a significant amount of curriculum-based intellectual property under license from HMH, the largest K-12 publisher in the world and is successfully selling this localised content into private schools in India, USA, Indonesia, Qatar, among other places. EMPGI is currently establishing other operating platforms in assessment, platforms and services as well as looking at select M&A opportunities to enhance its organic strategy.
In 2012, Barry O’Callaghan established Beanstalk Innovation a US enterprise that is about envisioning, architecting, and delivering transformational change and continuously improving K-12 education. The organization believes strongly that K-12 education is at a pivotal moment. A moment where the right ideas, coupled with innovative technologies, and enabled in partnership with education’s stakeholders, can grow the existing practice of teaching and learning into a 21st Century Learning Model that builds upon quality education practices and expands the opportunity for positive learning outcomes. Beanstalk Innovation believes that this educational change will require a unique and pioneering approach. The company is a thought leader in comprehensive K-12 education teaching and learning solutions. Its management team has a pedigree in developing some of the most innovative educational learning technologies and engineering many of the largest hybrid learning initiatives in the United States. Having assembled a portfolio of high quality curriculum and technology based alliances, Beanstalk Innovation is investing in transformative 21st century content authoring, curating, and delivery technologies for collaborative curriculum solutions, all distributed via a historically proven bespoke consulting and sales channel.
EMPGI, Beanstalk Innovation and their affiliates have a deep-rooted commitment to educational excellence through the use of innovative technology, combined with proven pedagogy to drive outcomes. EMPGI’s core values comprise educational improvements, sustained profitability, corporate social responsibility, innovation, disruption and leading human capital.
He was the largest shareholder in EMPG on its formation in 2007 with a controlling stake of circa 48%. O'Callaghan created Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the largest educational publishers in the United States, by merging existing companies. Despite the rationale of the merger of Riverdeep, Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt to form HMH, the global financial crisis affected the company by first forcing a restructuring that led to a loss of value of Mr. O'Callaghan's shareholding in EMPG in late 2009, with his holding falling to approximately 22%. Then a further restructuring in early 2010, led to his stake and its value being reduced to 'almost zero'.
Despite the destruction of $3.5 billion of equity value at EMPG, the conversion of approximately 60% of the debt, over $4 billion, into equity, and massive personal debts of O'Callaghan, circa $400 million, he remained for a short time as CEO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, after the completion of the restructuring. In 2011, O'Callaghan stepped down as CEO and was eventually replaced by Linda Zecher.
On 4 April 2010, The Times described the lending practises at Anglo Irish Bank. The article quotes the new CEO, Mike Aynsley: "hubris played a very, very big part." In may deals, Anglo Irish Bank would lend to wealthy individuals to further their equity participation. In many cases, Anglo took personal guarantees as security. The article in the Times notes that Anglo Irish Bank has large exposures to entrepreneurs such as O’Callaghan.The bank’s security was limited and largely to his shares in EMPG.
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... In addition to his positions at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and EMPG, O'Callaghan has other investments, in particular in his native Cork with a stake in the Cliff House hotel, a 39 bedroom luxury hotel, in Ardmore, Co ... Independent reported that Valshan, the company that operates the Cliff House Hotel owed O'Callaghan €3.5m at the end of 2008, based on information reported ... O'Callaghan is the sole shareholder in Valshan, whose registered office is at EMPG's office in Dublin ...
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—Barbara Ehrenreich (b. 1941)