In the last several years private equity investment in autism services, particularly in providers of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, has substantially increased. While a handful of private equity investments in autism occurred earlier, 2017 and onwards have seen a flurry of private equity acquisitions.134 For example, in 2018 The Blackstone Group acquired the Center for Autism andRelated Disorders, with close to 2,000 employees, for a reported $700 million. It was reportedly the largest single autism provider deal in history.135 The year before, FFL Partners bought Autism Learning Partners (3,600 employees) for $270 million.136 In 2019 Gryphon Investors acquired LEARN Behavioral, (3,400 employees),137 and in July 2021 Cerberus Capital Management acquired Lighthouse Autism Center from Abry Partners for over $400 million.138
Because private equity investment in autism services is relatively new, little is known about what it means for quality of care. However, the profit-seeking tactics seen in private equity’s ownership of other behavioral health services, particularly in intellectual and developmental disability services, raises concern for how the business model will impact autism services.
- 134 Pitchbook, accessed November 2021.
- 135 Bailey Bryant, “Bolstered by Recent Tech Investments, CARD Gears Up for Growth in 2021,” Behavioral Health Business, October 22, 2020. https://bhbusiness.com/2020/10/22/bolstered-by-recent-tech-investments-card-gears-up-forgrowth-in-2021
- 136 “FFL Partners seals $270M SBO,” Pitchbook, December 22, 2017. https://pitchbook.com/newsletter/ffl-partners-seals270m-sbo
- 137 Aimen Hakim, “Gryphon Investors acquires majority stake in LEARN Behavioral,” S&P Global Market Intelligence, March 20, 2019. https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/trending/ifu2YjUfC-Y8bqIYXsJlUA2
- 138 Sarah Pringle, “Cerberys buys Abry’s Lighthouse Autism Center in $200m-plus deal,” PEHub, July 22, 2021. https:// webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:kpxncoJPWC4J:https://www.pehub.com/cerberus-buys-abrys-lighthouse-autism-center-in-400m-plus-deal/+&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us