HMH Taps Renaissance’s Lynch for its Next CEO

February 17, 2017 | Volume 48, Number 4

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Boston) reached into the K-12 educational technology arena for its new president and CEO—tapping John (Jack) Lynch Jr., who has been CEO of Renaissance Learning (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) since October 2012.

Lynch succeeds Linda Zecher, who came from Microsoft and resigned under pressure from the HMH board of directors on Sept. 22, 2016, five years after taking the company helm. An apparent misreading of the hold HMH has on the California market, an implosion in the company’s performance in the K-8 English language arts adoption in that state in 2016—including the under-performance of the expensive ($575 million cash) acquisition of Scholastic’s (New York) Read 180 intervention program—a loss of market share, and two reductions to projected revenue for 2016 led to Zecher’s departure.

The leading charge for Lynch, who has a nearly 20-year record leading ed-tech businesses, is a return to growth in core education programs. 

 

Core Strengths

HMH board chairman Lawrence Fish cited Lynch’s “uncommon set of K-12 education and technology experience” and “an outstanding track record generating exceptional returns for investors” in announcing Lynch’s appointment. 

Lynch brings experience not only in technology but in K-12 reading, math, assessment techniques and mobility applications. 

Lynch was named CEO of Renaissance Learning in November 2012 and saw the company through a $1.1 billion acquisition by private equity investment firm Hellman & Friedman in early 2014 and investment in growth initiatives in the second half of 2016.

Lynch previously was the founding CEO of education network bigchalk.com, followed by several years at Pearson (London/New York), where he was president and CEO of Pearson’s School Technology Group. Before going to Renaissance, Lynch was a member of the board at professional publisher Wolters Kluwer.

 

Renaissance Search

The departure of Lynch from Renaissance Learning is sending that company to a headhunter. Renaissance turned to its chief financial officer Mike Evans, who will serve as interim CEO while the Renaissance board begins a search for the company’s next CEO. 

Evans joined Renaissance in October 2015 from Pearson, where he led K–12 literacy and math business lines, as well as its student information business. Evans, too, had been at bigchalk.com, where he served as chief operating officer. ■

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