Pearson to sell Economist Group stake for £469m

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Publishing group Pearson has agreed to sell its 50 per cent stake in the Economist Group in a £469 million deal which will make Italy’s Exor, controlled by the Agnelli dynasty, its biggest shareholder.

The deal comes weeks after Pearson said it was offloading the Financial Times to Japan’s Nikkei for £844 million, and will see The Economist move out of its headquarters in a prime location of central London.

Pearson is selling the publications as part of plans to focus on its world leading education publishing business and said it would use the proceeds of the sale to invest in this strategy.

It acquired its stake in The Economist in 1957 as part of its purchase of the FT, which had owned half of the magazine since 1929. Its history dates back to 1843, when it was founded by a Scottish hat manufacturer to further the cause of free trade.

Now one of the world’s leading weekly business and current affairs publications, it has a circulation of around 1.6 million. The group also includes a website and other operations including an “intelligence unit” providing business analysis.

The Economist’s editor is Zanny Minton Beddoes.

Last year the group contributed £21 million to Pearson’s operating income. The deal is subject to approval by regulators, shareholders and the group’s independent trustees, and is expected to complete in the final quarter of this year.

Pearson chief executive John Fallon said: “Pearson is proud to have been a part of The Economist’s success over the past 58 years, and our shareholders have benefited greatly from its growth. We have enjoyed supporting the company as it has built a global business, sustaining the excellence of its journalism and ensuring it is read more widely. We wish all our colleagues at The Economist every future success.”

The Economist said the deal would see new measures to safeguard its editorial independence.