Pearson CEO steps down, rumors swirl over FT sale

Pearson chief executive Dame Marjorie Scardino will step down from her post on Jan. 1 after 16 years, during which she shaped Pearson into a digitally-focused publishing and education business, the Financial Times (owned by Pearson) reported today.

Scardino’s exit has caused speculation over whether Pearson will sell off the conglomerate’s non-education businesses, including FT and Penguin.

Ten years ago, she said she would sell the FT “over my dead body,” the report stated. Incoming CEO John Fallon, currently head of the group’s international education division, would not rule out selling the FT, but said the newspaper is “a highly valued and very valuable part” of Pearson.

Should Pearson sell the FT, it could do so for up to £1 billion, MediaGuardian pointed out, calling the CEO switch the perfect time for a “trophy hunt” by potential buyers.

“The question is who wouldn’t want to own the FT. Russian oligarchs, a wealthy Middle Eastern owner would get more status than owning a football team, or a trade buyer like an Axel Springer or Bloomberg,” a City analyst told MediaGuardian.

Ian Whittaker, an analyst at Liberum Capital, said Fallon “has no emotional commitment” to the FT, Ad Age reported.

Another analyst, Alex DeGroot, with Panmure Gordon & Co. in London, told AdAge possible buyers could be Bloomberg, News Corp. and Thomson Reuters. “With the Financial Times, it’s all about the value of the brand, and the FT is the classic trophy asset.”

Image: Financial Times

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