Head of Pearson's FT group to stand down

LONDON Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:06pm IST

Rona Fairhead, chief executive of Pearson's Financial Times Group is seen in this undated handout photograph released in London November 27, 2012. Fairhead, is to stand down from the pink-paged newspaper group next April, she announced on Tuesday. REUTERS/Pearson/Handout

Rona Fairhead, chief executive of Pearson's Financial Times Group is seen in this undated handout photograph released in London November 27, 2012. Fairhead, is to stand down from the pink-paged newspaper group next April, she announced on Tuesday.

Credit: Reuters/Pearson/Handout

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LONDON (Reuters) - The head of the Financial Times Group is to stand down almost two months after losing out in the race for the top job at Pearson (PSON.L), the pink-paged newspaper's owner.

Rona Fairhead's departure - her handover period runs to April - was the latest in a raft of changes at the once stable British media and education group in recent months which have fuelled speculation the FT may be sold.

On October 3, John Fallon, who does not have a publishing background, was named the successor to Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino following her earlier-than-expected departure after 16 years in charge.

Scardino, the first female CEO of a FTSE 100 company, had said the FT title would be sold "over my dead body".

Pearson also announced in October it was to merge its Penguin Books unit with Bertelsmann's Random House to create the world's leading consumer book publisher.

Tuesday's news left analysts wondering whether the changes would affect the performance of the wider group.

"Ordinarily, a situation like this would give investors cause to look at a break-up analysis which is generally good for the shares," Panmure analyst Alex DeGroote told Reuters.

"However, in this case the opposite is playing out. The market is taking the view that all this change is not necessarily a good thing. Markets are concerned that the company has become too inward looking."

A Pearson spokesman said Fairhead's departure was not linked to Pearson's ownership of the FT Group, adding Fallon recently visited FT offices to tell staff he had no intention of selling.

"The FT Group is a much smaller job than it used to be due to the disposals it has made. It also does not look like it will be an area for investment in the immediate future," said one analyst who asked not to be named.

"So that head job is perhaps less attractive than it used to be. That, mixed with the disappointment from missing out on the top job, is probably why she (Fairhead) is going."

Fairhead said the leadership transition at Pearson was a natural moment to move on after 12 years.

Pearson shares were down 1.8 percent in late trade, with the FTSE 100 index up 0.2 percent.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Dan Lalor and Helen Massy-Beresford)

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