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Publicly traded education services company Zovio announced yesterday that Andrew Clark, its founder, president and CEO of almost 18 years, will leave at the end of this month.

Clark founded Zovio, formerly known as Bridgepoint Education, in 2004. The company owned and managed Ashford University, which was once one of the largest online universities in the U.S. The university reached a peak enrollment of 77,734 students in 2012 before dropping down to 32,630 in 2019.

Zovio sold Ashford to the University of Arizona for the nominal fee of $1 in 2020. Zovio maintains a close relationship with the institution and manages its online programs in exchange for a cut of tuition revenue. Ashford is now known as the University of Arizona Global Campus.

"It has been my honor to lead Zovio for almost 18 years and use the power of technology to transform lives and uphold our mission of putting everyone in a class of their own," Clark said in a news release.

Under a separation agreement, Clark will receive $3.1 million -- the equivalent of twice his annual base salary and target bonus -- in incremental payments over two years beginning within 10 days after his departure. His equity awards schedule has been modified, and he will receive a prorated portion of his annual bonus for the 2021 fiscal year.

As of last March, Clark's beneficial ownership of the company amounted to 5.8 percent of shares outstanding, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“With the transformation of Zovio to an ed tech services company complete, including the historic sale of Ashford University to the University of Arizona Global Campus, Andrew and the board mutually agreed now is an appropriate time for a leadership transition,” Vickie Schray, executive vice president and chief external affairs officer at Zovio, said in an email.

Zovio will be led by a team of senior executives called the Office of the CEO until a replacement for Clark is found, Schray said. George Pernsteiner, chair of Zovio’s Board of Directors, will lead the Office of the CEO, where he will be joined by Chris Spohn, executive vice president of operations, and Diane Thompson, executive vice president, secretary and general counsel.