KinderCare Learning Centers

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KinderCare Learning Centers
Incorporated, Private
Industry Early Childhood Education
Founded July 14, 1969; 48 years ago (1969-07-14)
Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.
Founder Perry Mendel
Headquarters Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Number of locations
1,700 locations (2014)
Key people
Tom Wyatt, CEO of Knowledge Universe[1]
Dr. Elanna Yalow, CEO Early Learning Programs[2]
Number of employees
Parent KinderCare Education, LLC

KinderCare Learning Centers is an American operator of for-profit child care and early childhood education [4] facilities founded in 1969 and currently owned by KinderCare Education.[5] The company provides educational programs for children from six weeks to 12 years old. Some 200,000 children are enrolled in more than 1,600 early childhood education community centers,[4] over 600 before-and-after school programs,[6] and over 100 employer-sponsored centers in 39 states and the District of Columbia. KinderCare Education employs approximately 30,000 people in the United States; its headquarters are in Portland, Oregon.



Perry Mendel, a real estate developer, founded KinderCare after speculating that increasing numbers of women entering the work force would increase demand for preschool child care. The company began as Kinder-Care Nursery Schools, and the first facility was opened on July 14, 1969[7] accommodating 70 children

The idea behind the firm was to provide child care in bulk using economies of scale. Other companies such as La Petite Academy has the same idea, but Kinder-Care executed the concept most aggressively.[8]

A second facility was opened in 1970, and the company changed its name to Kinder-Care Learning Centers, Inc. n. By 1971, 19 centers were in operation and the first infant care was offered.[7]


One of the company's schools in Hillsboro, Oregon

The firm went public in 1972 and established a new corporate headquarters in Montgomery. To help with marketing, Mendel employed Richard Grassgreen, an IRS attorney and tax expert. He would later become CEO.

By 1974 the company had 60 centers located in 17 states and over 500 employees nationwide. The company's first major acquisition came in 1977, when it purchased the 15 facilities of Playcare. In 1979, it acquired Mini-Skools, Living and Learning, and American Pre-Schools. In 1985, the company opened its 1,000th center.

In 1987, it was reported annual revenues of $900 million, and analysts were remarking on the company's rapid growth, observing that stock had soared from 12 cents a share to $20 at its high in mid-1987. During this time, Kinder-Care was expanding at the rate of one new center every three days.

In 1987, Kinder-Care acquired Sylvan Learning Centers, a provider of supplemental instruction to children and adults, and the largest franchiser of its kind.

Diversification and bankruptcy[edit]

Chief Executive Grassgreen led the company on an ill-conceived diversification plan in the late 1980s. The idea was suggested by Michael Milken, an investor from the firm of Drexel Burnham Lambert. In the 1980s, Kinder-Care acquired a wide variety of companies such as American Savings for $188 million.[9] They also purchased photo studios, shoe stores and even invested in a foreign fertilizer manufacturer. As a result, the company's debt load increased from $10 million to about $620 million in 1988. The company found itself in deep financial trouble after the stock market crash in October 1987.

According to a 1988 Forbes article, less than half of Kinder-Care's sales and profits for the year were expected to come from its child care centers. A new company, the Enstar Group Inc., was formed as a holding company during this time for Kinder-Care and the other companies now associated with it.

Caught in a cash squeeze in January, 1991, Kinder-Care stopped paying interest on its debt.[10] During this period, Tull Gearreald, an investment banker, took command of the company as president and CEO. He promptly declared the company would remain focused on the original mission of caring for children. Still faltering under its high debt load, KinderCare filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on November 10, 1992.

The company continued operating, and in January 1993, in a move that helped their balance sheet, KinderCare sold off Sylvan Learning Centers for $8 million.

KinderCare Education[edit]

In 1992, the company updated its bell tower logo and removed the hyphen in the spelling of Kinder-Care.

KinderCare was acquired in 2005 by the Knowledge Learning Corporation (KLC) division of Michael Milken's privately held education services firm, Knowledge Universe.[11] The deal, valued at over US$1 billion, made KLC the nation’s largest private child care and education provider.[12]

In terms of size, KinderCare is the third-largest privately held company headquartered in Oregon,[5] and the company's executive leadership operates out of Portland.[13] In 2012, company revenues were about $1.45 billion, down from approximately $1.6 billion in 2010.[14]

KinderCare Education, the parent company, also operates Knowledge Beginnings, Children’s Creative Learning Centers (CCLC), and Champions.[15]


The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and other associations have accredited over 700 KLC centers.[16][better source needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tom Wyatt Named New CEO of Knowledge Universe-US". KU. 20 January 2012. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012. 
  2. ^ "Our Executive Team". KU. Archived from the original on 2013-08-23. 
  3. ^ "KinderCare Learning Centers LLC: Private Company Information - Businessweek". 
  4. ^ a b "15,000 BOOKS...TEN STATES...AND SEVEN COUNTRIES: KINDERCARE "READ.SHARE.GIVE" CAMPAIGN PROMOTES EARLY READING" (PDF). 22 September 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 May 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Giegerich, Andy (January 6, 2016). "Why a $1.5B Portland powerhouse is changing its name". Portland Business Journal. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  6. ^ "Before-and-After School Programs, Break-Time Camps For Winter, Spring and Summer - Champions". Archived from the original on 2012-12-12. 
  7. ^ a b "KinderCare Learning Centers, Inc. History". 
  8. ^ Barbara Demick (2 December 1990). "Kinder-care Problem Child Its Portfolio". Chicago Tribune. 
  9. ^ Tracy Kolody (30 April 1988). "Kinder-care Buys American Savings". Sun Sentinel. 
  10. ^ "Can Kinder Care Put This Puzzle Together?". Business Week. 23 February 1992. 
  11. ^ "Milken, KinderCare reunited". CNN Money. 6 November 2004. 
  12. ^ "Knowledge Learning to buy KinderCare in $1B-plus deal". San Francisco Business Times. 8 November 2004. 
  13. ^ Linda Baker (27 January 2011). "Knowledge Universe reaches $1.6 billion in revenue". Oregon Business. 
  14. ^ Linda Baker (28 May 2013). "Expanding universe". Oregon Business. 
  15. ^ "KinderCare Learning Centers". KU. Archived from the original on 2014-11-22. 
  16. ^ "KinderCare Learning Centers Accreditation". KLC. Archived from the original on 2008-03-13. 

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