John Sperling, the 83-yearold co-founder of the University of Phoenix, has resigned as chairman of Phoenix-based Apollo Group, the parent company of the for-profit university and other adulteducation subsidiaries.
Sperling, who will remain a member of Apollo’s board of directors, is being replaced by Todd Nelson, who has been president since 1998 and chief executive since 2001. Nelson has held other management and instructing positions at the company for 17 years.
Sperling said he was resigning in the interest of succession planning.
"Todd Nelson has provided very strong leadership to Apollo Group for many years," Sperling said. "His experience and skill in managing the company has become a great asset."
In additional to running a profitable education business, Sperling has become noted for promoting numerous controversial projects such as legalized medical marijuana and cloning of animals.
The $1.3 billion Apollo Group was founded by Sperling and his brother Peter in 1973 and specializes in higher education programs for working adults.
Its subsidiaries are the University of Phoenix, with both online and campusbased programs; Institute for Professional Development; the College for Financial Planning Institutes Corp.; and Western International University Inc.
It operates 78 campuses and 133 learning centers in 38 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. Combined enrollment in degree programs is 239,000 of which about 210,000 attend University of Phoenix classes.
At a meeting with financial analysts, Nelson said the University of Phoenix has the potential to reach one million students by the end of this decade.
Sperling has been ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the wealthiest Arizonans with a net worth of more than $1 billion.