Swedish “active” investor Cevian Capital has taken a 5.4% stake in UK-based education publisher Pearson Plc. The stake gives it a board seat and potential influence over the recruitment, currently underway, of the company’s next CEO, in succession to John Fallon who has been at the helm since 2013.
Pearson was founded as a construction business in the 1840s but switched to publishing in the 1920s. It is the world’s largest education company and was once also the largest book publisher, before the 2013 merger of its Penguin Books with Bertlesmann. In 2015 the company announced a change to focus solely on education and sold the Financial Times to Nikkei for £844m.
Pearson has a market cap of £4bn but its shares have lost almost 60% of their value in the past five years, even after a double-digit jump on this news of Cevian’s investment.
The Swedish company’s strategy is to acquire “significant ownership positions in publicly-listed European companies, where long-term value can be enhanced through active ownership”.
Pearson has struggled in recent years to transform from an educational publisher to digital learning provider.