Pearson picks Disney’s former international boss as new chief executive

Educational publisher Pearson has turned to former Disney executive Andy Bird for a leader to guide the company through its move to become a digital-first business.

Mr Bird, who has been on Pearson’s board since May, will take up the position later in the autumn.

He spent several years as the chairman of Walt Disney International, turning the media giant into a digital-first business – an echo of the ambitions that Pearson has for itself.

The 35-year industry veteran will be appointed once shareholders accept clauses in his pay package, which includes a more than 50% rise in base salary compared to his predecessor John Fallon.

His pay package also includes 16% of his base salary, or £200,000, in cash in lieu of a pension, incentive plans, and money towards a flat in New York “to be used for business purposes”.

Parts of the plan will need shareholder approval, and Mr Bird’s appointment in mid-October will depend on this, Pearson said.

Chairman Sidney Taurel said: “We are delighted to have secured someone of Andy’s calibre, after an extensive search and selection process.

“Andy brings a wealth of international consumer experience, as well as significant expertise in building brands, transformational change and driving digital innovation.

“He is an inspirational and dynamic leader with an excellent track record of growth.

“Because of his experience and skills, he is extremely well placed to continue the transformation of Pearson, leading it to a new era of growth and enhancing value for all our shareholders.

“The board and I congratulate Andy on his appointment and look forward to working with him.”

Mr Bird said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to be joining Pearson as the next chief executive at an exciting time for the company.

“Since joining the board earlier this year I have quickly come to see the enormous potential across the company’s businesses, the strength and dedication of the people who work here, and the great opportunities that exist for Pearson to become a digital first learning company.

“I believe we have exciting prospects ahead and I look forward to playing my part in shaping the future of the company, with the leadership team, to unlock our full potential and achieve sustainable growth for all our stakeholders.”