August 18, 2017 / 10:09 PM / in a year

Zaher to cut ties with Brazil's Estácio by next month

SAO PAULO, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Brazilian businessman Chaim Zaher and his family plan to sell their remaining 1.25 percent stake in Brazilian for-profit education firm Estácio Participações SA after selling about 7 percent of the company’s shares, he said on Friday.

This week, the Zaher family sold part of their Estácio stake in two block trades and will sell the rest by the end of September.

U.S. buyout firm Advent International Corp was the sole buyer in this week’s transactions, paying about 437 million reais ($139 million) for the shares. It will also buy the rest of the family’s stake, Zaher said.

In a securities filing late on Friday, Estácio said a fund owned by Advent now owns a 10.5 percent stake in the company.

Advent’s hefty investment underscores the firm’s growing interest in Brazil’s resilient education industry despite a harsh recession and rising tuition delinquencies. Zaher said he sold the stock at prices slightly below current market levels, which were at the highest in nearly three years.

The family’s quick exit from Estácio also reflects lingering tension with other shareholders following the collapse of a planned takeover by rival Kroton Educacional SA.

Representatives for Advent and Estácio declined to comment.

Initially, Advent and the Zahers had teamed up to win control of Estácio, but a recent move by other shareholders to thwart them put the alliance on hold, Zaher said.

The board’s proposal to amend Estácio’s corporate governance rules last month was “the last straw,” he said.

Zaher said Estácio’s board had proposed new bylaws, under which any shareholder owning more than 20 percent of the company would have to make an offer to the others for the remaining shares. The new rules were proposed soon after he informed the board that Advent was buying Estácio shares and that his family wanted to follow suit.

“They didn’t want me there,” Zaher said, adding that the board’s effort to change Estácio’s bylaws was “nothing else than creating a Chaim Zaher poison pill.”

On July 31, Estácio said in a securities filing that the move was “a continuous fine-tuning of good corporate practices” by a company with dispersed share ownership.

The month before, antitrust watchdog Cade had rejected Kroton’s Estácio takeover plan, saying the combined company would have too much market power.

$1 = 3.15 reais Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal, Brad Haynes and Tom Brown

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