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West End Extra - by TOM FOOT
Published: 21 December 2007
Passion at a price in Pimlico’s Future?

Academy sponsor sells expert education group

THE specialist education group that was supposed to be running the iconic Pimlico comprehensive when it becomes an academy in September has been sold to a billionaire businessman by the academy’s sponsor, John Nash.

Mr Nash’s private equity firm, Sovereign Capital Ltd, on Monday announced the £113 million sale of his Alpha Plus Group to a property company owned by the philanthropist George Soros.
Mr Soros paid more than four times the £26 million Mr Nash paid for the group in 2002.
Ryan Robson, managing partner at Sovereign Capital, said: “Our commitment to invest in the Alpha Plus Group over the last five years has been rewarded by an excellent return for our investors.”
Opposition leader councillor Paul Dimol­denberg said: “It is claimed Mr Nash has a ‘passion for education’. It would appear, however, that this ‘passion’ had a price.”
Alpha Plus, which runs 18 private schools including Davies Laing in Marylebone and according to a spoke­sman “always equips schools to the highest standard”, was only last month singled out by Westminster’s director of schools Steve Farnsworth as the main reason Mr Nash’s charity Future should be appointed as sponsor.
Mr Farnsworth told the cabinet meeting in November that Future would be “supported in developing the proposed Pimlico Academy by Alpha Plus”.
But following the sale of the firm the council is now saying something different.
This week a spokesman said: “At no time was Alpha Plus a central element of Future’s proposals.”
The loss of Alpha Plus from the Pimlico Academy package has angered campaigners who claim that the charity, formed only one year ago, has no experience in running secondary schools.
Last week, in a letter to the West End Extra, the vicar of St-Martin-in the-Fields described the “consultation” process over Mr Nash’s appointment as sponsor as a “charade” and blasted the council for an “ideological piece of vandalism”.
Cllr Dimoldenberg said: “What else do we not know about Mr Nash that we ought to know about his businesses and the way in which he buys and sells schools like tins of beans?”
Mr Nash was not available for comment.

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