Pearson ends Penguin relationship with stake sale as boss plans to retire

Education group Pearson unveiled a £530 million deal to sell its remaining stake in book publisher Penguin Random House as it announced the retirement of chief executive John Fallon next year.

Pearson will end its near-50 year relationship with Penguin with the sale of its last 25% holding in the group to German media group Bertelsmann – a deal valuing Penguin at around 3.67 billion US dollars (£2.8 billion).

Pearson – which has also offloaded its media interests including the Financial Times Group and the Economist Group in recent years – separately announced that Mr Fallon will step down as boss in 2020 once a successor has been appointed.

His departure will cap more than six years in the role and comes after a difficult 12 months, with Pearson recently warning over profits.

The group is halfway through an overhaul to become a digital educational products and services company – a strategy that Mr Fallon has overseen, and has included a raft of major asset sales, as well as job cuts.

Mr Fallon said: “There’s a lot still to do but we’re making good progress in navigating Pearson through a period of huge change.

“We’re now a much more efficient company, able to innovate more quickly and scale globally.”

Pearson chairman Sidney Taurel said: “In some very challenging markets, John has worked tirelessly, leading Pearson through a period of significant change, and led its transformation from a media conglomerate to a single-focused learning company.”

Shares in Pearson lifted 2% after news of the stake sale.

The Penguin deal is expected to complete in the first half of next year, with the proceeds being used to buy back £350 million of shares.

It sees Penguin’s valuation rise by 3% since Pearson sold a 22% stake in the group two years ago.

Mr Fallon added: “For almost 50 years, Pearson has been proud to play our part in the publishing and commercial success of, first, Penguin and then, more recently, Penguin Random House.”