Pearson plc

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Pearson plc is a multinational corporation, headquartered in the UK, focused on educational publishing and services.

Pearson plc
FormerlyS. Pearson & Son
Company typePublic
ISINGB0006776081 Edit this on Wikidata
Founded1844; 180 years ago (1844)
FounderSamuel Pearson
HeadquartersShell Mex House, London, England
Key people
ProductsEducational materials (books, tests), Television distribution
  • Educational assessment
  • school management
  • higher education
RevenueDecrease £3,674 million (2023)[1]
Increase £498 million (2023)[1]
Increase £380 million (2023)[1]
Total assetsDecrease £6,727 million (2023)[1]
Total equityDecrease £3,988 million (2023)[1]
Number of employees
17,612 (2023)[1]

Originating in 1844 and named S Pearson and Son by Samuel Pearson in 1856, what began as a small local civil engineering business in Yorkshire grew between 1880 to 1927 into a massive diversified international conglomerate under the subsequent leadership of Samuel's grandson Weetman Pearson.[2] By the time of World War II, the company had major national and international subsidiaries in manufacturing, electricity, oil, coal, banking and financial services, publishing (periodicals and books), and aviation.

After the Second World War and the British government's nationalisation of many industries, Pearson refocused on publishing and media. In 1984 the company changed its name from S. Pearson & Son plc to Pearson plc.[3][4] Under the leadership of CEO Marjorie Scardino, in 1998 the company formed Pearson Education, and by 2016 education was Pearson plc's exclusive focus. As of 2023 Pearson Education, known since 2011 as simply Pearson, is Pearson plc's main subsidiary.[5] Pearson owns one of the GCSE examining boards for the UK, Edexcel.[6]

Pearson plc has a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It has a secondary listing on the New York Stock Exchange in the form of American depositary receipts.

History edit

Civil engineering businesses 1844 to 1925 edit

In 1844 Samuel Pearson became an associate partner in a small brickmaking and contracting civil engineering company in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.[7][8] In 1856 Pearson's eldest son George entered the business, which became known as S Pearson & Son, "sanitary tube and brickmakers and contractors for local public works in and around Bradford".[7] In 1880, control passed to Samuel's grandson Weetman Dickinson Pearson (later 1st Viscount Cowdray), an engineer, who in 1890 moved the business to London and turned it into one of the world's largest construction companies.[9]

Another of its prominent engineers was Ernest William Moir who, after working for Pearson on tunnels in New York City, became the contractor's agent on construction of the Blackwall Tunnel under the River Thames in London between 1892 and 1897.[10][11][12]

Between 1880 and 1902 the company also built the Admiralty Harbour at Dover, the Halifax Dry Dock in Canada, the East River Railway Tunnels in New York City, the Mexican Grand Canal that drained Mexico City, the Tehuantepec Railway in Mexico, and railways and harbours around the world.[13][14][7]

In November 1915, the firm began construction of HM Factory, Gretna, the largest cordite factory in the UK during World War I.[15]

The construction business was shut down in the 1920s.[14][7] Its final projects included construction of the Silent Valley Reservoir in Northern Ireland (contract awarded in 1923),[16] and completion of the Sennar Dam, in Sudan, in 1925.[17]

Manufacturing businesses 1856 to 1993 edit

In 1856 S Pearson & Son advertised itself as manufacturing sanitary tubes and bricks in Yorkshire.[7] Manufacturing expanded beyond sanitary tubes and bricks to include a variety of items globally, including nuts and bolts, specialist glass, pottery, porcelain and fine china, and related items.[7]

Pearson acquired Allied English Potteries (including Royal Crown Derby) in 1964[18] and Doulton & Co. in November 1971, whereupon it merged those two potteries companies.[19][20] Pearson purchased the Fairey Group in 1980, and its engineering was merged with Doulton's industrial ceramics engineering.[21]

Pearson sold Doulton Glass Industries Ltd. in 1982.[7][21] The Fairey Group became independent of Pearson in 1986 via a management buy-out.[21] As Pearson refocused on its core publishing and media industries, it divested Royal Doulton, which was its remaining fine china division and the last of Pearson's manufacturing assets, in 1993.[22][19]

Electricity businesses 1900 to 1960 edit

The conglomerate entered the electrification market in 1900, when Weetman Pearson was requested to electrify Mexico's tramway system, and then the general electrical supply in the city of Vera Cruz and elsewhere.[7][23] This process was repeated in Chile.[7] These electrical interests were consolidated into Whitehall Electric Investments Ltd. in 1922.[7]

In 1929 the electricity businesses in Mexico and Chile were sold, but similar electricity utilities were developed in southwestern England until they were nationalised in 1948.[7]

All of Pearson's overseas electricity utility businesses, which had spread to Greece, were closed by 1960.[7]

Oil businesses 1901 to 1989 edit

While building the Tehuantepec Railway in Mexico for president Porfirio Diaz, Weetman Pearson learned of oil deposits in south Texas and Mexico and in 1901 began buying prospective oil lands in those places.[24] After striking oil in Mexico in 1908,[25] he founded the Mexican Eagle Petroleum Company in 1909 to handle all of S Pearson and Sons' oil interests.[25]

In 1919 the Royal Dutch Shell Group acquired a large share of, and management of, Mexican Eagle, and Pearson formed Whitehall Petroleum Corporation Ltd. to take over Pearson's oil interests and to prospect globally for oil.[7] It established a major oil company in the U.S., Amerada Corporation, in 1919.[7][26] Amerada was compulsorily acquired by the British government in 1941 due to World War II; a small interest was reacquired by Pearson in 1945.[7]

In the 1950s Pearson expanded its North American oil and gas interests, and in the 1970s also expanded them globally.[7] By 1989, Pearson divested its oil and gas exploration activities and sold Whitehall Petroleum.[7]

Banking and financial services 1919 to 1999 edit

In 1919, Pearson founded Whitehall Trust Ltd. as a finance and issuing house.[7] In 1919 Pearson also acquired a 45% stake in the London branch of merchant bankers Lazard Brothers,[27] an interest which was increased to 80% in 1932 during the depression years.[27]

In 1976 Pearson acquired a stake in Embankment Trust Ltd.[7]

By 1990 Pearson's stake in Lazard Brothers was reduced to 50% following Lazard's internationalization to Paris and New York,[27] and Pearson acquired 10% stakes in the two overseas branches.[7]

In 1999, due to the company's refocus on education, publishing, and media, Pearson sold its Lazard holdings for £410 million.[7][27]

Coal businesses 1921 to 1947 edit

Following Wheetman Pearson's 1907 creation of Whitehall Securities as its holding company for all of Pearson's non-contracting industries,[7] beginning in 1921 Pearson partnered with Dorman Long[28] to form a coal-mining conglomerate in 1922,[7][28][29] called Pearson & Dorman Long Ltd.[30] The company purchased and operated many collieries in the UK through at least 1947.[29][30]

Publishing businesses 1921 to 1997 edit

In 1921, Pearson purchased a number of local daily and weekly newspapers in the United Kingdom, which it combined to form the Westminster Press group.[9]

Following the British government's acquisition and nationalisation of several of Pearson's aviation, fuel, and energy divisions in the early 1940s due to World War II,[7][29] Pearson entered the education market.[31]

In 1957, it bought the Financial Times[9] and acquired a 50% stake in The Economist. It purchased the publisher Longman in 1968.[9]

Pearson was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1969.[9]

It bought the paperback publisher Penguin in 1970,[9] and the children's imprint Ladybird Books in 1972.[32] It bought a rival, the educational publisher Pitman Ltd, in 1985.[33]

In 1996 Pearson sold Westminster Press to Newsquest,[34] acquired the education division of HarperCollins from News Corporation,[35] and acquired book publishers Scott Foresman & Co..[36]

Aviation businesses 1929 to 1959 edit

In 1929, Pearson's Whitehall Securities entered the aviation field, purchasing an interest in Airwork Services.[37]

By 1935 Whitehall Securities had major interests in a number of British airlines and aviation companies, including Spartan Air Lines, Saunders-Roe, United Airways, and Hillman's Airways.[38] In September 1935, Hillman's Airways, Spartan Air Lines, and United Airways merged to form British Airways Ltd.[38] In 1936, British Airways absorbed British Continental Airways and Crilly Airways.[38] In 1940, British Airways was nationalised due to World War II.[38]

In 1937 the company acquired Northern & Scottish Airways and Highland Airways, and merged them into a new company, Scottish Airways.[39] This airline was nationalised by the British government in 1947 and merged into British European Airways.[39]

Pearson's aviation interests ended by 1959, when Saunders-Roe was sold to Westland Aircraft.[7]

Entertainment media businesses 1981 to 2002 edit

in 1981 Pearson's publishing subsidiary Pearson Longman established Goldcrest Films and Television in 1981, led by the founder of Goldcrest Films, John Eberts, and chaired by James Lee, chief executive of Pearson Longman.[40] At its inception, the new concern owned 40% of Goldcrest Films.[40]

In 1986, Pearson invested in the British Satellite Broadcasting consortium, which a few years later merged with Sky Television to form a new company, British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB).[41]

During the 1990s, the company acquired a number of TV production and broadcasting assets, including former ITV franchisee Thames Television,[42][43] Australian production company Grundy Television,[44][45][46] U.S. television company All American Communications Inc.,[47] Italian drama production company Mastrofilm,[48] European animation financer and distributor EVA Entertainment,[49] and UK production company Talkback Productions.[50]

In 1994, Pearson acquired software publisher The Software Toolworks for US$462 million,[51] and rebranded it Mindscape.[52] In 1998, Pearson sold Mindscape to The Learning Company for US$150 million, taking a $346 million loss on the sale.[53]

In 2000, Pearson merged its television holdings with CLT-UFA to form the RTL Group.[54] In 2002 it exited the industry entirely by selling its 22% stake in RTL to Bertelsmann.[55][56]

Pearson Education and corporate refocus 1998 to 2016 edit

Scardino and new focus on education edit

Marjorie Scardino, who was CEO of Pearson plc from 1997 to 2013, increasingly focused the conglomerate on education and on making education acquisitions.[57][58] In 1998, Pearson plc purchased the education division of Simon & Schuster, which included Prentice Hall, Allyn & Bacon,[59][60] and parts of Macmillan Inc. including the Macmillan name.[61][62] Later in 1998 it merged Simon & Schuster's educational business with Addison Wesley Longman to form Pearson Education.[63]

Pearson sold and divested most of its Simon & Schuster divisions in 1999.[64]

In March 2000 Pearson acquired the illustrated reference publisher Dorling Kindersley and integrated it within Penguin.[65] It acquired National Computer Systems (NCS) in September 2000, entering the educational assessment and school management systems market in the United States.[66]

In 2002, Pearson purchased Rough Guides, the travel publisher, and brought it under Penguin.[67]

In 2003 it acquired Edexcel,[68] a provider of qualifications in the UK, and in 2004 acquired about 80% stake in Meximerica Media Inc for the swelling U.S. Hispanic market.[69] Pearson purchased a series of other testing and assessment businesses, including Knowledge Technologies in 2004,[70] AGS in 2005,[71] and Promissor in 2006.[72] It acquired National Evaluation Systems, a provider of customised state assessments for teacher certification in the US, in 2006[73] and acquired eCollege, a digital learning technology group, in 2007.[74]

It sold Silver Burdett Ginn Religion, a Catholic publishing division it operated under the Scott Foresman imprint, to RCL Benziger in 2007.[75] In 2007 Pearson Education sold the Macmillan name to Holtzbrinck Publishing Group,[61][62] which had purchased Macmillan Publishing Ltd. in the late 1990s.[76]

In 2008 Pearson acquired Harcourt Assessment and Harcourt Education International from Reed Elsevier[77] and merged them into Pearson Assessment & Information.[78]

In February 2008, Pearson announced the sale of its Pearson Data Management Division (formerly the scanner manufacturing and servicing division of NCS Inc.) to Scantron Corporation (part of M&F Worldwide) which had been its main competitor.[79]

In 2010, Pearson acquired the adult English training service Wall Street Institute[80] and the school learning systems division of Sistema Educacional Brasileiro (SEB).[81] Also in 2010, the company sold its 61% stake in Interactive Data to investment funds managed by Silver Lake Partners and Warburg Pincus.[82]

Pearson Education rebrands as Pearson (2011) and Pearson plc rebrands as education-only (2016) edit

Pearson Education was rebranded as simply Pearson in 2011.[83]

In July 2011, Pearson announced the creation of Pearson College, a British degree provider based in London.[84][85] Also in 2011, Pearson acquired Connections Education and agreed to sell its 50% stake in FTSE International Limited to the London Stock Exchange for £450 million.[86] In 2011, Pearson also increased its stake in TutorVista to 76%.[87]

In May 2012 Pearson announced its acquisition of GlobalEnglish Corporation, an American Business English software and solutions company, in an all-cash transaction.[88]

In October 2012 Pearson entered into talks with rival conglomerate Bertelsmann, over the possibility of combining their respective publishing companies, Penguin Group and Random House,[89] and said it would merge Penguin Books with Bertelsmann's Random House to create the world's biggest consumer book publisher.[90]

In February 2013, following government changes to apprenticeship funding rules, Pearson sold its Pearson in Practice, a UK vocational training business, to West Nottinghamshire College, which renamed it Vision Workforce Skills.[91][92]

In May 2013, Pearson announced a new restructuring plan to invest in digital learning and emerging markets, after predicting weaker earnings.[93] The change supported the decoupling of the Penguin consumer publishing business into a separate entity with Random House (forming Penguin Random House). The new structure combined the separate education companies, Pearson International and Pearson North America under one Pearson company and Pearson reorganised around three global lines of business – School, Higher Education and Professional. The Financial Times Group and Pearson English formed part of Pearson Professional.[94]

In July 2014, the company announced it had cut 4,000 jobs, representing 10% of the company's workforce.[95]

Pearson announced in July 2015 that it had agreed to sell the FT Group, which includes business daily Financial Times, to Japanese media group Nikkei for £844 million, or $1.32 billion. The sale does not include FT Group's London property at One Southwark Bridge.[96] Pearson retained the publishing rights to FT Press and licensed the trademark from Nikkei.[97] In August 2015, Pearson's sold its 50% stake in The Economist to the Agnelli family,[98] who previously held 4.7% of the group.[99] The remaining 50% of The Economist Group is owned by the Schroders, Cadburys and the Rothschilds.[99]

Following the sale of its financial news publications Financial Times and The Economist in 2015, Pearson plc rebranded in January 2016 to focus solely on education, and the corporation adopted a new logo,[100] the interrobang (‽), a combination of a question mark and an exclamation point, meant to convey a "combination of excitement, curiosity and individuality"[100] and "the excitement and fun of learning".[101]

2017 to present edit

In July 2017, Pearson sold its Tutor Vista and Edurite lines of business to India-based education technology company, Byju's.[102] In July 2017, it also agreed to reduce its holding in Penguin Random House to 25%, by selling a 22% stake in the business to Bertelsmann.[103]

In August 2017 Pearson announced that it would cut 3,000 staff in an effort to save £300 million annually.[104] In August 2017 it also sold the language-training subsidiary Global Education to Chinese company Pu-Xin Education.[105]

In 2019, Pearson sold its US K-12 courseware business to the private equity firm Nexus Capital Management,[106] which rebranded it as Savvas Learning Company.[107][108] Pearson also sold its remaining 25% stake in Penguin Random House to Bertelsmann.[109]

Pearson CEO John Fallon retired from the company in 2020,[109] and was succeeded by Andy Bird on 19 October 2020.[110]

In December 2021, Pearson announced that Omid Kordestani had been appointed as the chairman of the board of directors,[111][112] effective March 2022.[113]

In April 2022, Pearson announced it had acquired the online language learning platform, Mondly.[114]

In September 2023, CEO Andy Bird announced his impending retirement.[115] He was succeeded by Omar Abbosh, president of Microsoft's Industry Solutions business,[115] on January 8, 2024.[116]

Organisational structure edit

Pearson plc is a holding company, and conducts its business primarily through subsidiaries and other affiliates.[5] As of December 2022, its main subsidiaries are:[5]

  • Pearson Education Inc. (United States)
  • Pearson Education Ltd. (United Kingdom)
  • NCS Pearson, Inc. (United States)

According to the company's website, its business divisions consist of:[117]

  • Assessment & Qualifications
  • Virtual Learning
  • English Language Learning
  • Workforce Skills
  • Higher Education

Criticism edit

Concerns exist around the amount of influence Pearson, being a commercial company, has on public education.[118] Other concerns are around tax avoidance, high value contracts, and an instance of laying off teachers to offset the high costs of testing.[119] In 2017, more than six out of ten Pearson shareholders voted against the chief executive's pay package of £1.5 million after the company made a record loss.[120] Pearson US has been criticised for using offshore tax avoidance schemes involving a host of companies at a service address in Luxembourg.[121]

Pearson owns Edexcel, a British education and examination board.[122] Edexcel has produced qualifications which link to Pearson texts, although Edexcel also continues to endorse textbooks published by other companies.[68] Edexcel has also faced criticism over repeated leaks of exam material in consecutive years; police investigations into some of the incidents were referred to prosecutors.[123]

In June 2010, Pearson plc received notification that the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) founded by Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi as a sovereign fund had acquired 24.4 million shares within the company via Euroclear. On further investigation, Pearson said the LIA may have acquired an additional 2.1 million shares, resulting in a total interest of 26.5 million shares. At the time, this represented a major holding of 3.27% within the company and the investment was worth around £280 million.[124]

See also edit

References edit

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