November 7, 2012

Pearson to sell the Financial Times?


Surprise, surprise: according to Bloomberg, Pearson is looking to offload the Financial Times, just a week after news broke of the merger of Pearson’s Penguin with Random House.

Enigmatically quoting ‘people with knowledge of the situation’, the report says that Pearson may start the process before the January departure of CEO of sixteen years’ standing Marjorie Scardino. Throughout her tenure she’s insisted on the paper’s value to the Pearson group, so rumours of a sale began circulating pretty much as soon as news of her departure broke. Last month her successor John Fallon stepped in to say that the paper is ‘highly valued and a very valuable part of Pearson’, and a spokesman for Pearson commented on yesterday’s report to say:

We are not in the habit of responding to rumors, speculation or reports about our portfolio, however this particular Bloomberg story is wrong.

Are they fooling anyone? Pearson has clearly decided to shift its focus to its educational business, as the Bloomberg piece points out:

Pearson has emphasized its education and professional businesses, which provide texts and software for students and employees, through acquisitions. The North American education unit accounted for more than half of operating income last year, growing 19 percent to 493 million pounds…

Over the past 12 months, Pearson has made a series of 10 acquisitions for a total of $1.2 billion in the education industry, which has proven more profitable than its journalism business.

Likely buyers of the FT if/when it goes on the market include Bloomberg LP, Thomson Reuters Corp., and, of course, terrifyingly, Murdoch‘s News Corp. Any Murdoch bid should be subject to a report from the Competition Commission, given that Murdoch already owns the Times (London) — but we all know how bendy those rules are when there are Murdochs in town.



Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.