“Preparing you today for a bright tomorrow.”
A-Star has a unique ability to provide a lifetime of experiences to students of all ages. With its mission to prepare its students for a bright tomorrow, A-Star really does believe in its “MAGIC” values:
Mastering the Future | Adaptability | Grit | Ikigai (finding oneself) | Curiosity
Founder & CEO
Prior to founding A-Star Education, Brian was Chief Executive Officer of Asia Pacific for Cognita, one of the largest private K12 groups globally, for 8 years. Since founding the business in 2008, Brian grew the Asia business from a start-up to representing over 65% of the total group EBITDA. Brian has invested US$500 million into the Asia Pacific region over the last 8 years across a wide range of both M&A and Greenfield assets in the education sector. Brian also led two rounds of private equity investment into Cognita, including the sale of 50% of the company to KKR in 2013. Additionally, he led a £280 million public bond offering in 2015, the first for the Company.
Brian has a B.S. in Economics and received his MBA from the University of Chicago. He has lived and worked in Asia for the last 21 years.
Ambassador Kirk Wagar
Ambassador Kirk Wagar was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 2, 2013 and was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore on September 4, 2013. He served as Ambassador until January 20, 2017.
In January 2017, Ambassador Wagar started a global investment and strategic advising firm, Wagar Global, representing investors and businesses looking to expand to unfamiliar markets, focusing primarily on the Americas and Asia. Ambassador Wagar was appointed to the Board of Governors of the East-West Center in Honolulu in January 2017 for a term ending in 2020 by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Nick is Anglo-Belgian and started his career in London and New York in leveraged finance and in private equity.
Nick joined Verlinvest in 2006 and was appointed Director of Business Development of Armonea, the largest nursing home operator in Belgium. He soon joined the Verlinvest investment team, making investments in Europe, India and the U.S. in a range of industries. In October 2014, Nick was appointed Executive Director, responsible for opening the Singapore office with a focus on the retail, hospitality and education sectors.
Chris is a leading global marketer turned advisor, investor, entrepreneur, board member and Executive-in-Residence (NYU Stern).
His 23 year corporate career spanned 3 FMCG leaders: P&G, The Coca-Cola Company and AB InBev (CMO 07-12). From 08-13 he served as board member and president of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA).
End 2012 he founded his NYC based strategic marketing consultancy (www.vicomte.com), and built up a globally diversified portfolio of category disruptors. He also became a trusted Verlinvest Operating Advisor since mid 2012, actively advising on all aspects of marketing capability building. He previously represented Verlinvest on the board of Kensington & Sons (successfully sold to Unilever April 2017).
Chris chairs 2 non profits that nurture international young talent development and entrepreneurship: the Belgian-American Chamber of Commerce in the USA (www.belcham.org, 2010-), and the Prince Albert Fund in Belgium (www.princealbertfund.be, 2014-).
Alexander De Wit
Alexander is in charge of developing Verlinvest’s internal talent and partner’s network as well as providing support to its portfolio companies. In the latter role, Alexander works with CEOs and their teams on matters relating to strategy, organisation, talent development and change management.
Alexander spent the first ten years of his career as a management consultant. He left McKinsey & Co in 2001 to set up his first company, The Little Gym, in Europe & the Middle East (TLGE). He later founded Twinscape Group, a technology company in the swimming pool industry. He has also supported inspiring entrepreneurs and teams in the development of their business and he is an Executive coach at Harvard Business School.
Alexander holds Masters degrees from The Solvay Brussels School of Economics & Management (1992) and INSEAD (MBA, 1996). He also studied neuroscience (INC) and completed the Owner/President Management program of Harvard Business School.
Chief Financial Officer
Nico has extensive experience in private equity, mergers & acquisitions and start-ups across a range of sectors and geographies for more than 12 years. He was most recently a Director at Arowana International, an ASX listed diversified investment group. Prior to joining Arowana, Nico helped built start-up Sterling Early Education into the second largest for-profit long day care centre group in Australia. Nico was also an Investment Director at Bregal Capital in London for six years where he played an important role in the value creation of Cognita, one of the largest private K-12 groups globally. Before starting his career in private equity, Nico worked in the financial sponsors team and the special situations group at Citigroup in London.
A Dutch national, Nico graduated from the Erasmus University - Rotterdam School of Management with a Master of Business Administration degree majoring in Finance and Investments.
Chief marketing Officer
Ann is a brand marketing specialist & intrapreneur with a broad experience in customer engagement, brand building and innovation in all its aspects.
In the past 25 years, Ann has held both local and global roles within FMCG (Mondelez, AB Inbev, Bacardi Martini) and recently within services as CMO of Armonea (one of Europe’s leading senior care providers).
Ann has a strong belief that combining consumer understanding with strong service delivery and an innovative perspective, will create value for the consumer, the company and its employees.
Ann also has 2 teenage sons which give her some personal perspective on helping to develop “the stars of the future".
Low Sock Yian
Group Director of Human Resources
Sock Yian has broad based experience in HR, in the education sector and across other industries. She most recently served as HR Director, Asia of Cognita for 5 years, providing leadership and management to 10 schools, including working on M&A opportunities and setting up a new brown field school in Hong Kong. She has also worked in organizations including Singtel, Novell and Unisys, in numerous senior regional HR leadership roles. She joined Cirque du Soleil in 1997 as the HR Director to set up its Asia Pacific office, enabling the company to bring several successful shows into the region.
Sock Yian graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration and holds a Graduate Diploma in Human Resources from the Singapore Institute of Management.
A private Belgian family investment holding company based in Brussels with over €1.9bn of assets and with an ability to raise significantly higher amounts of capital from the family shareholders if needed. The investors in Verlinvest are part of the Belgian shareholder families of AB-InBev, the world’s largest beer company with an Enterprise Value in excess of €230bn.
Their key areas of focus for investment are; food & beverages, digital marketing, e-commerce and branded well-being services and products. The partnership with A-Star-Education will see them significantly expand their focus into the education sector.
Verlinvest has offices in Brussels, Singapore and New York.