GOODPRACTICE, the Edinburgh-based online learning specialist, has been sold to an English publishing group in a deal thought to have valued the firm at a seven-figure sum.

The sale of the firm will generate windfalls for Baroness Margaret Ford, the entrepreneur who founded, the firm and chief executive Peter Casebow. Ewan Brown, the eminent investment banker, is also a shareholder.

Details of the transaction were not disclosed but Mr Casebow said a chunk of the proceeds will be shared among GoodPractice's 24 employees.

Yorkshire-based Emerald Publishing has bought GoodPractice to grow its business in the professional learning and development sector, with a focus on digital learning.

The deal will give Emerald control of a business that provides online learning packages and resources for management development that are being used by about two million people around the world.

Clients include Pepsi and American Airlines.

Emerald made a takeover approach to GoodPractice at the start of the year under a plan to expand from its core academic market. The group has a portfolio of more than 290 journals and about 2,500 books.

Mr Casebow said shareholders were not looking to sell GoodPractice but felt Emerald could help the company to accelerate growth significantly.

He said: "The offer they made was good for our people, our customers and our shareholders. It quickly became clear this deal was the right move at the right time for GoodPractice, and I'm delighted to see it go through."

Mr Casebow added: "They will be investing heavily in GoodPractice ... Their global network opens up the international marketplace for us in a way that could have taken us years to achieve without their support."

GoodPractice will continue to be based in Edinburgh. Mr Casebow will remain chief executive.

The sale provides a reward for longstanding shareholders in the business, who recognised that the development of the internet would make it possible to develop new kinds of staff development products that could be offered to the global market.

Baroness Ford launched the firm in 2000 after a successful career working in the private and public sectors.

She worked at the Scottish Development Agency in the 1970s, helping to rebuild the North Ayrshire economy following the closure of steelworks there and went on to develop two successful consultancies.

As chairwoman of housing and regeneration agency English Partnerships, Baroness Ford helped to sell the Millennium Dome to become the O2 Arena.

She was made a life peer in 2006 and sits in the House of Lords as an independent.

Mr Casebow is a former head of internal communications at Royal Bank of Scotland. He joined GoodPractice as the first business development director of the firm in 2000.

Although the company launched amid the fall-out from the bursting of the bubble, it soon built a client list that included the Scottish Ambulance Service and FTSE-100 names such as Shell and Royal Bank.

The company laid off four staff during the downturn triggered by the financial crisis of 2008 but started hiring again after training budgets increased amid the ensuing economic recovery.

Mr Casebow said the company increased turnover by 40 per cent in its latest financial year and was profitable.

Richard Bevan, chief executive of Emerald, said: "GoodPractice has a reputation for exceptionally high-quality content, outstanding customer service and an impressive management team, making it a very strong strategic and cultural fit for the group."